New Center Will Explore UW’s Past
The project builds on the acclaimed Public History Project.
UW–Madison will establish a permanent center with full-time staff to continue and expand on the work of its well-received Public History Project. The new entity, to be called the Rebecca M. Blank Center for Campus History, will be devoted to educating the campus community about the university’s past in ways that will enrich the curriculum, inform administrative decisions, and bolster efforts to achieve a more equitable university.
Late chancellor Rebecca Blank commissioned the Public History Project in 2019 as one of several responses to a campus study group that investigated the history of two UW–Madison student organizations in the early 1920s that bore the name of the Ku Klux Klan. The project was charged with giving voice to those who experienced and challenged bigotry and exclusion at UW–Madison and improved the university through their courage and actions.
The project’s museum exhibition, called Sifting and Reckoning: UW–Madison’s History of Exclusion and Resistance, ran last year at the Chazen Museum of Art.
“Students and alumni alike told us that visiting the exhibition made them feel more connected to the UW,” says LaVar Charleston MS’07, PhD’10, deputy vice chancellor and chief diversity officer. “They saw themselves and their communities being reflected in the history of the university — in some cases for the first time.”
John Zumbrunnen, vice provost for teaching and learning, says many instructors across campus have incorporated the findings of the Public History Project into their courses and expects this practice to grow.
Published in the Summer 2023 issue