Frequently Asked Questions
Before plastic film and digital storage, glass was used to capture images. Visit the History Center and see a selection of glass plate negatives and their printed images from the Research Center and Archives Collection. Also on exhibit will be our 1908 studio camera and a selection of equipment used for taking glass negatives. Free with regular museum admission.
Over 122,000 Wisconsin men and women served on land, sea and in the air during WWI. WWI Beyond the Trenches, a traveling exhibit from the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, features an up close and personal look at the Great War through the eyes of Wisconsin veterans using photographs and first person accounts. This special exhibit is free with museum admission.
Dig into the past at our free family-friendly, indoor-outdoor celebration! This year, we’re exploring archaeology in honor of Wisconsin archaeology month.
See how stone tools are made, learn how archaeologist identify and interpret artifacts, and MORE!
Guided tours of the Old Jailhouse Museum will be available at 9:45, 10:15, 10:45, 11:15, 11:45, 12:15, and 12:45. Stop at the Old Courthouse Museum front desk for free tour tickets.
Learn about the dark past of West Bend as Executive Director of the History Center of Washington County reveals the crimes of West Bend! This second talk in the 3 part series co-sponsored by the West Bend Library and the History Center of Washington County will take place at the Old Courthouse Museum.
Washington County Residents are invited to visit all 3 History Center Washington County Museums this week for FREE. It’s our way of saying, “Thank you!”
On Wednesday, June 20 all Museums are open late.
- Old Courthouse & Old Jailhouse Museums, 11:00am-7:00pm
- Father Rehrl’s Rectory & Exhibit at St. Agnes Historic Site, 5:00pm-7:00pm. Open Wednesday only.
EGG DROP from Old Courthouse tower June 21 from 4-7pm! Group-build a secure, drop-proof egg carton in the courtroom (or at home) for 1 raw egg. For $10 you get the egg, building supplies and 3 chances to hit the target from the balcony level (80 feet) of the Old Courthouse tower.
Hit the target and the egg survives, win a prize. Hit the target and the egg does not survive, you still get a prize. Try as many times as you wish, but it is $10/egg/drop. Tower is open only to those participating in the egg drop.
LAST OLD JAILHOUSE MUSEUM TOUR each day begins 45 minutes before close. Stop at the Old Courthouse Museum for a FREE Old Jailhouse Museum tour ticket.
Regular hours for Museums apply the rest of the week.
Residents, please bring a photo id with your current address, or a utility bill with photo id. Regular museum admission applies to non-county residents. Egg drop fee is in addition to museum admission.
Group-build a secure, drop-proof egg carton in the courtroom (or at home) for 1 raw egg.
For $10 you get the egg, building supplies and 3 chances to hit the target from the balcony level (80 feet) of the Old Courthouse tower.
Hit the target and the egg survives, win a prize. Hit the target and the egg does not survive, you still get a prize.Tower is open only to those participating in the egg drop.
Egg Drop is during our Free Museum Admission Week for Washington County Residents. Residents, please bring a photo id with your current address, or a utility bill with photo id. Regular museum admission applies to non-county residents. Egg drop fee is in addition to museum admission.
Q: Do I need an appointment to visit the museums?
A: No, the Old Courthouse and Old Jailhouse Museum are open regular hours year-round. Groups of 10 or more should call ahead and talk with the Curator of Education (262) 335-4678 or email@example.com.
Q: Are the museums accessible?
A: The Old Courthouse Museum has an elevator that is accessed from the parking lot. The Old Jailhouse Museum does not have an elevator and several steps and stairs.
Q: Can I take pictures in the museum?
A: Yes, non-flash photographs are allowed in the Old Courthouse and Old Jailhouse Museums. For professional photography, contact the History Center (262) 335-4678.
Q: How can I go up into the tower?
A: The Old Courthouse tower is closed to the public. However, the It’s In the Details Architecture Tour includes a trip up to the tower. Or, you can purchase a Trip to the Tower certificate in the Treasurer’s Vault Gift Shop.
Q: Who owns the buildings?
A: Washington County has owned and maintained the property and the buildings on it since 1854. An agreement with the County allows The History Center Washington County to operate within both the Old Courthouse and Old Jailhouse. St. Agnes Historic Convent and School Site is owned and operated by The History Center Washington County.
Q: Do you accept credit cards?
A: Yes, we accept cash, check, and credit cards.
Q: Is museum admission required to shop in the Treasurer’s Vault Gift Shop?
A: No. Shopping in the gift shop is free.
Q: How do I rent the Old Courthouse Museum/Circuit Courtroom?
A: Contact Sue (262) 335-4678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: When are the museums open?
A: The Old Courthouse Museum is open year-round on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11:00am-5:00pm and Saturday 9:00am-3:00pm. It is closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
The Old Jailhouse Museum is open for guided tours year-round on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11:00am-5:00pm. Call ahead (262) 335-4678 to check Saturday tour availability. It is closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
St. Agnes Historic Convent & School Site is open on specific days June-August and by appointment. Contact the History Center (262) 335-4678 to check dates or to schedule a tour.
Q: Do I have to live in or be from Washington County to become a member?
A: No. Anyone interested in preservation of the past is welcome to join. Find more about becoming a member on the Support page.
Q: Am I expected to attend meetings to become a member?
A: No. As a member, you are invited to the annual November membership meeting and vote on the incoming Board of Directors.
Q: How do I make a memorial gift or a gift in honor of someone?
Q: How would I make a bequest gift?
A: Contact the Executive Director, (262) 335-4678 or email@example.com.
Q: I have an object that I would like to donate. What do I need to do?
A: All object donations must first have approval of the Curator of Collections and Exhibits. Please do not drop them off or leave them at the door. Make an appointment by contacting the Curator of Collections and Exhibits, (262) 335-4678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I would like to make a gift to the Washington County Historical Society Foundation, Inc.
A: Endowment Fund gifts can be mailed to The History Center Washington County, 320 S 5th Ave, West Bend, WI 53095. Make checks to "Washington County Historical Foundation, Inc." and include any specific instructions. Contact the Executive Director, (262) 335-4678 or email@example.com, with any questions.
Common Research Center Questions
Q: What records do you have?
The Research Center holds collections concerning the people, places, and events of Washington County. Please see the Research Center page for more.
Q: How does "this" (the Research Center) work?
While appointments are not required they are recommended. All Research Center materials and collections are in storage. We have indexes and catalogs to help us find information. Essentially, you tell us what you are looking for and we find and pull the materials that will have the information you are searching for. This is why an appointment is recommended. We can do a search and pull the materials before your arrival so all you have to do is start researching.
Please, also remember that unless you are a member of the History Center, there is a $5 daily Research Center fee; copies are extra and no cell phones or personal scanners.
Contact the Curator of Archives, (262) 335-4678 or firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
Q: How do I find out information regarding my home?
We are looking for and collecting information when it becomes available, there is no way the Research Center can have a detailed history of every home - that would be a monumental task and think of the space! Such a collection could make up its own archives.
While we don’t have detailed histories of every house in Washington County there are ways to find out some basic information using the sources that we have here and those at the Register of Deeds Office.
To determine when a house was built check the inside and outside of the home for a date carved in stone or wood. Your next step would be to look through the tax records for a spike in property value. The tax record will not tell you that a house was built; a significant spike in property value does indicate that a structure was built on the property. Plat maps are also helpful. The Research Center does have tax records, but not for every township or municipality.
To determine who first owned or built the house you will need to go to the Register of Deeds Office in the County Courthouse. There you will be able to look through land deeds by property description, or by the surname of a previous owner.
Q: I would like birth, marriage, and death certificates.
The Research Center does have pre-1907 vital records on microfilm. Please note that it was not mandated that people had to file these vital records with a governmental body. For this time period a search of our church records may yield more information.
For certificates after 1907, a visit to the Register of Deeds office will be needed. The RC does have church records through 2000 for most churches.
Contact the Curator of Archives, (262) 335-4678 or email@example.com, for more information.
Q: I would like a copy of a photograph. Can you photocopy it?
The Research Center does not photocopy our photographs. We do photographic reproductions. Reproduction sizes are from 8x10 to 17x22. Please contact the Curator of Archives, (262) 335-4678 or firstname.lastname@example.org, for pricing.
All of our photographs are digitized and cataloged. Sometimes finding a photograph is as easy as typing in the right search term and other times researchers find the binder copies of the photographs easier to navigate. Either way there is a way to find the one photograph you are looking for in our 16,000 (and growing) photograph collection.
Q: Are Research Center records online?
The Research Center is working on cataloging collections that have not been cataloged to put the catalog record or Finding Aid online. Check the Digital Collections page often to see what has been added recently.
Q: I have materials to donate.
Q: Is there a fee to use the Research Center?
A: Yes, there is a fee to use the Research Center. A $5.00 daily fee is charged for use of the Research Center unless you are a member of the History Center. Members can use the Research Center for free. Any photocopies, photographic reproductions, and scanning are extra.
Q: I would like to know where my great-great grandfather is buried.
A: The Research Center does have information regarding burials in Washington County. Often, it’s as easy as looking in our Death and Burial Index. Other times more research is needed. Contact the Curator of Archives, (262) 335-4678 or email@example.com, for more information.