Campus History

4 Photos in Search of a Caption


UW–Madison’s Steenbock Library has a vast collection of science books and journals, but a room on its top floor contains the little-known heart of campus history.

Two million photos, more than 4,000 hours of oral histories, plus posters and correspondence documenting life at the state’s flagship institution are housed in boxes that rest upon dozens of bookshelves at the UW Archives.

Archives staff is working to digitize each piece of UW history for people to both use and share, but with limited resources, that’s easier said than done.


UW Archives first began uploading images to its website in 2003, but the staff has only begun doing so at a high volume in the past few years. Because the office is charged with aiding researchers, developing the collection, and working with UW departments to manage records, digital archivist Catherine Phan ’00, MA’09 says it is able to devote only about 10 hours per week to scanning photos for use in an online format. That works out to about 400 to 500 images per month.

So far, 13,640 total materials have been scanned. And even when images are digitized, archivists hit a roadblock when they try to catalog them, since so many of the photos lack information such as subject, time, and place.


On Wisconsin magazine wants to help fill in these gaps in the UW’s story. If you can identify any of the people, places, and events in the photos on these pages, drop us an email at

Responses may be published in a future issue, and UW–Madison will be a small step closer to bringing its collection fully into the digital age.



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