This blog documents the search for objects to include in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database, an online archive of decorative arts objects–furniture, ceramics, textiles, and metalwork–made in Wisconsin between 1800 and 1930. The database brings together, in digital form, artifacts from museums and historical societies across the state, creating a new resource for the study of state and local history, craft traditions, industry and material culture.
The Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database is a collaboration of three institutions: the Chipstone Foundation, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and the Material Culture Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Chipstone Foundation provided the funding for the initial development of the project via the Charles Hummel Fellowship. Ongoing support is provided by grants from Chipstone and the Kaufman Americana Foundation. The Wisconsin Historical Society provides technical support as well as hardware and software resources, and the Material Culture Program provides resources for decorative arts research.
The project was inspired by the innovative fieldwork undertaken by the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in the 1970s and 1980s to document thousands of early regional artifacts and craftspeople in seven southern states, creating an indispensable research archive for the study of southern history and material culture. The Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database project seeks to develop a similar resource for the state of Wisconsin, taking MESDA’s template into the digital age through a publicly-accessible online database. Working closely with each contributing site, I select and photograph objects, research their histories, and document them with detailed catalog records.