State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Archives Division


816 State Street; 2nd Floor
WI 53706
United States


+1 608-264-6534
+1 608-264-6535


The Wisconsin Historical Society, established in 1846 and chartered in 1853, is the oldest historical society in the U.S. to have received continuous state funding. Its library and archives have long provided essential resources for historical scholarship, especially (but not only) for U.S. historians. The Historical Society’s current building on Library Mall opened in 1900 and housed both the Historical Society collections and, until 1950, the University Library.

Records Management and Collecting Policies

The Library-Archives Division collects, preserves, and makes available both published and unpublished materials about the history of Wisconsin, the United States and Canada. The Library and Archives also serves as the North American history research center for the University of Wisconsin-Madison and provides access to collections owned by the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research.

Acquisitions and Collection Development


The headquarters building contains the Society's Library and Archives as well as the offices of most Society programs.

Library: 2nd floor

Archives: 4th floor

Finding Aids, Guides, and Publication

The Society’s collections are cataloged in the University of Wisconsin-Madison library catalog.

Opening Times

Library Reading Room: M - TH: 8 AM -7 PM | F: 8 AM - 5 PM | Sat: 9 AM - 4 PM | Closed Sundays

Archives Reading Room: M - F: 8 AM - 5 PM | Sat: 9 AM - 4 PM | Closed Sundays

Conditions of Access

The Library and Archives are free and open to the public. Nearly all of the Library's 14 stack levels are open to the public, and visitors may browse the open stacks and use any material in the library. Materials in the collections of pamphlets, current periodicals and rare books can be retrieved upon request. Professional reference librarians are available to assist patrons. If you need assistance, please ask.


The Wisconsin Historical Society headquarters building is fully accessible by wheelchair. Read more information here about the accessibility of the building and the services provided to visitors with disabilities.

Reproduction Services

The Historical Society can make digital and print reproductions of photographs and other visual materials in our holding. The Society's holdings contain millions of photographs, of which

90,000 photos, drawings, paintings and other materials are available for purchasing and viewing online at Visual Materials in Our Collections.

If you are interested in images not currently available on our website, we will conduct limited research into our holdings. More extensive research assistance may be possible on a case-by-case basis by contacting the visual archives. Normal turn-around time is approximately two to four weeks, but may be longer. Contact the visual archives by email:

Most Library and Archives materials may be copied unless their physical condition or legal constraints prohibit it. We reserve the right to deny copying of materials. Rare, fragile, and large format items such as bound newspapers may not be copied. Most other printed or microform items may be copied.

Researchers who cannot visit the Library-Archives may order copies by e-mail or letter. We do not accept orders by phone. In your request, please be sure to include a specific reference to title, author and page numbers for library materials; and collection title, call number, box and folder number (if known) for archival materials. Copies may be delivered as a PDF or mailed as photocopies. Normal turn-around time is approximately two to four weeks, but may be longer.

Find a list of fees here.

In the Archives:

Visitors may use self-service machines to copy most archival material or save images to a flash drive for free. Paper copies cost ($.07) per page. Wiscards are required for printing, non-UW Madison guests may obtain a guest copy card at the reference desk. Photographs may not be scanned to a flash drive, but paper copying is allowed.

Additionally, we do allow the use of digital photography in the archives. Researchers wanting to take photos should bring their own equipment and must agree to our reference photography agreement before taking any photographs.

In the Library:

Visitors may use self-service machines to copy printed materials and microforms or save images to a flash drive. Copies cost ($.07) from printed materials and ($.25) from microforms. Saving images to a flash drive is free. Copiers do not operate with cash but rather with a Wisccard. Non-UW Madison guests may obtain a guest copy card from the reference desk.


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