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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, May 20, 2024

Veterans museum turns 100

Since the events of Sept. 11, the question of war seems to be on everyone's mind. But as the Wisconsin Veterans Museum celebrates its 100th anniversary today, the history of war in this country and its veterans are the topic of conversation. 




The Wisconsin Veterans Museum began in 1901 as a one-room facility in the state Capitol committed to honoring the veterans of the Civil War and any subsequent wars. 




'It started out as a rather small enterprise in the state Capitol, founded by veterans,' said Steve Olson, communications officer of the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs, which oversees the museum. 'Eventually, because of the amount of collections accumulated, [the museum] needed more space.' 




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In the 1980s, the museum's outgrowth of its facility combined with the state Legislature's need for more space led to the construction of a separate facility for the museum. The museum moved across the street to its current location at 30 W. Mifflin St. and was dedicated June 6, 1993. 




In its present location, the museum is home to 10,000 square feet of public display space as well as an education center, lecture room and resource center. It is an important state institution that works to honor Wisconsin's veterans. 




'[The museum] pays tribute to Wisconsin veterans,' Olson said. 'The motto of the museum is to affirm and acknowledge the role of Wisconsin veterans in America's past. It's also an educational tool primarily for school children.' 




The museum houses three main galleries focusing on different aspects of America's military history. One centers on the Civil War period and features a full-size diorama of the Battle of Antietam, in which several Wisconsin regiments fought. Another gallery focuses on the 20th century and covers events beginning with the Mexican border conflict in the early 1900s through the Persian Gulf War.  




The third gallery changes periodically. On Nov. 11, Veteran's Day, a new exhibit will open in the gallery entitled 'Uncovering the Enemy.' It will be a history of military intelligence and surveillance from World War I to Vietnam. It will include uniforms, communication equipment and interactive displays to honor the work of those who commit their lives to national security.  




Aside from the Wisconsin Veterans Museum's regular displays, the museum periodically hosts special events. 




'Throughout the year, the museum brings in lecturers and authors,' Olson said. 'We bring some of the leading scholars in the nation here for lectures on various topics.' 




The museum also uses Madison's role in the Civil War to bring history to life. It has had Civil War reenactments at Camp Randall, which was a training site for Wisconsin regimens and was briefly used as a camp for captured Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.

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