(262) 335-4678

Old Courthouse
& Jail Museums

Wednesday – Friday: 11:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 – 3:00 p.m. 

St. Agnes Historic Site
By Appointment Only

Washington County Courthouse Museum

Future of the Washington County Historical Society, Inc.

Upcoming Events

Oct
25
Wed
White House Christmas Ornaments (Temporary Exhibit) @ Old Courthouse Museum
Oct 25 2017 @ 7:17 pm – Jan 20 2018 @ 8:17 pm
White House Christmas Ornaments (Temporary Exhibit) @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

View 25 ornaments created by the White House Historical Association and learn about the presidents and era each represents.  Free with museum admission.

Nov
8
Wed
A Swepet Christmas (Temporary Exhibit) @ Old Courthouse Museum
Nov 8 2017 @ 7:36 pm – Jan 6 2018 @ 8:36 pm

Visit with the Swepet family this holiday season.  Enjoy their 27 room dollhouse, all decorated for Christmas!  Includes a new mini exhibit titled “Souvenirs From the Swepet’s World Travels”, highlighting dollhouse artifacts from around the world!

Nov
23
Thu
CLOSED-Museums and Research Center @ Old Courthouse Museum
Nov 23 – Nov 24 all-day

The Museums and Research Center will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Happy eating!

Dec
7
Thu
The Making of an Exhibit: The Zinn Dollhouse Edition @ Old Courthouse Museum
Dec 7 @ 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
The Making of an Exhibit:  The Zinn Dollhouse Edition @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

Did you ever wonder how museum exhibits are made?  Curator of Collections and Exhibits, Janean Van Beckum, will explain the process of exhibit creation and design from the bottom up using the Zinn Dollhouse exhibit as an example. Learn how museums decide what artifacts to accept and how exhibits are researched, designed and installed.  After the program, take a self-guided tour  or complete a scavenger hunt of the Zinn Dollhouse, which will be decorated for Christmas!

Dec
23
Sat
CLOSED-Museums and Research Center @ Old Courthouse Museum
Dec 23 – Dec 26 all-day
CLOSED-Museums and Research Center @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

The Museums and Research Center will be closed for the holidays from Saturday, Dec. 23rd through Tuesday, Dec. 26th.  Normal hours resume Wednesday Dec. 27th.

Jan
1
Mon
Offices CLOSED @ Old Courthouse Museum
Jan 1 – Jan 2 all-day

The Museum and Research Center offices will be CLOSED Monday, Jan. 1 and Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018.  We will be back on January 3rd!

Research Center CLOSED for Inventory @ Old Courthouse Museum
Jan 1 – Jan 16 all-day
Research Center CLOSED for Inventory @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

The Research Center will be closed for inventory from Monday, January 1 through Tuesday, January 16, 2018.  Normal hours resume Wednesday, Jan. 17th.

The Museums are open during this time.

Jan
20
Sat
Collection of Collectors @ Old Courthouse Museum
Jan 20 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Collection of Collectors @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

Discover what your neighbors collect during the 11th annual Collection of Collectors.

Collectors share their interesting & unique passion. You’ll learn something new during this fun, informal, & FREE program.

Includes FREE admission to the Old Courthouse Museum. Museum hours are 9:00am-3:00pm.

If you have 2 of something, it’s a collection! And it doesn’t have to be old!

Want to share your collection? Contact Tori at education@historyisfun.com or (262) 335-4678 to register your collection. It’s FREE to participate and all ages of collectors are welcome!

 

Jan
31
Wed
Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin Traveling Exhibit @ Old Courthouse Museum
Jan 31 – Feb 24 all-day
Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin Traveling Exhibit @ Old Courthouse Museum | West Bend | Wisconsin | United States

Did you know the Great Lakes hold 20% of the Earth’s fresh water?   Join us for a special showing of Great Lakes Small Streams: How Water Shapes Wisconsin, a traveling exhibit presented by the Wisconsin Historical Society.  This 16 panel exhibit explores our state’s long relationship with water and the impact we have had on our vast waterways.

What is the discussion at the County Board regarding the Washington County Historical Society Inc.

There are two issues that affect operations of The Washington County Historical Society, Inc.  (WCHS) at 320 S. 5th, West Bend, WI 53095.   http://www.historyisfun.com

  1. Washington County Historical Society, Inc.: WCHS, operates two Museums and the Research Center in the property owned by Washington County. The Old Courthouse Museum and Sheriff’s Residence and Jail are known as the History Center Washington County (HCWC). Many programs and events are offered to the public, along with exhibits and research documents and services, throughout the year. The 2017 County budget provides $134,000 for the Historical Society for operations.  This amount has been reduced every year for the past five years and now is targeted to be discontinued completely possibly as soon as the 2018 calendar year.  WCHS also operates the St. Agnes Historic Site, which is not funded by the County.
  2. The Courthouse Museum and Old Jail/Sheriff’s Residence are owned and maintained by the county. Due to the expenses in preserving the historic buildings, the County is exploring options for other uses.  This could prohibit WCHS from operating a History Center in these buildings.
Isn’t the Washington County Historical Society a part of County government?
No.  The Washington County Historical Society, Inc.  is its own organization, a not- for- profit tax exempt entity that is over 140 years old.  Created in 1875, it was known as the Old Settlers Club with leadership from all communities in the county participating.   It is a membership based organization.  Join here. 
How much is the Historical Society funding in the total county budget?
The County’s total budget for 2017 is $125,000,000 and the funding for the WCHS is $134,000 or .001% of the total or approximately $1.00 per resident of the County.  Maintaining the buildings is another .001%.
How is the Board of Directors of the Washington County Historical Society, Inc. addressing this reduction in funding?

The Board of Directors is asking for the funding to be continued while they create a plan to mitigate the serious reduction in funds.  A long range strategy for the financial security and future operations of the WCHS needs to be completed.  In the short term, the WCHS Board of Directors’ position is:

  • The County should continue to own and maintain the buildings.
  • WCHS should remain as the tenant; the museums are the best use of the buildings.
  • WCHS needs an additional 5-10 years of funding and time to determine its future.
  • A long term lease is needed in order for the Society to fulfill its mission.

 

What does the Washington County Historical Society, Inc do?

The WCHS staffs and operates the History Center in addition to the St. Agnes historic site in Barton.

    1. The Society is responsible for preservation of a collection of over 35,000 artifacts specific to Washington County that has been donated for preservation and safe keeping. These items are used for exhibits, for discovery boxes, and for programming in the community including:
      • A collection from businesses such as West Bend Co., Regal Ware, Enger Kress.
      • A large Veteran collection of those that served from this County.
      • There are over 100,000 items preserved in the Research Center that include obituaries , church cemetery records, photographs, newspapers on micro-film, family papers, Veteran’s information and business materials.
      • Over 2200 children were visited with Discovery Boxes in 2016.
      • Over 8400 visitors came to the Museums in 2016.
    2. Programming for school children, seniors, members and the public. See historyisfun.com/visit/events.(Link)
      • Demand is increasing for home school group programs and visits to the local schools for programs that support curriculum based topics.
      • School outreach: The new “Every 2nd Grader in a Museum” program gives all 2nd graders and their families in the county a free pass to the Museum. This program supports the second grade school curriculum on “community”.
      • School outreach: The 4th grade curriculum is the history of Wisconsin, also increasing Museum utilization at the Museum and in many classrooms throughout the County.
      • Discovery Boxes are theme based traveling artifacts and photographs presented to classes and adult groups.
      • The Volunteer Outreach Committee creates additional monthly programming and annual Pioneer Kids Day for children.
What Does the Research Center do?
  1. Research Center: The WCHS Research Center includes church records, obituaries, over 16,000 historical photos, real estate records, cemetery records and county newspapers microfiche back to the l850’s.  Digitization of documents/photos is an ongoing project.
  2. Administratively, the Society is completing the SteP program, a national credentialing program for Museums that ensures policies and systems are in place and working.
What will happen to the History Center Washington County if funding is lost?
If unable to make up the lost funds elsewhere, museum programs, staff and accessibility will be reduced or the museums and research center could be closed completely.
What happens if the Courthouse and Jail/Sheriff’s Residence property is not available for the WCHS?
If we cannot stay here, the WCHS would have to consider relocating and/or downsizing and/or closing. Since the County owns the buildings, it is their decision what to do with the properties.
What happens to the research archives and collections that are housed in the Courthouse and Sheriff’s Residence and Jail buildings?

Laws that govern museums are complex and vary between states. Collections are held for the benefit of the public and the responsibility for care of the public trusts in each state rests in the office of the attorney general. Care and documentation of the collection is guided by state and federal laws, and professional and ethical standards set by organizations such as the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).

There are legalities and ethics behind what we would be required to do if WCHS could no longer care for the artifacts.  But the consequences most likely will include a vast collection that is no longer catalogued, preserved, and accessible to its community.

What can I do to support the Washington County Historical Society, Inc?
Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society.  Attend our programs and consider volunteering.
Who can I talk with about the County’s financial support of WCHS?

Call, write, or talk to your County Board Supervisor as well as the County Administrator. For contact info: http://www.co.washington.wi.us/uploads/docs/clkdir20162017.pdf

These talking points may be helpful:

  • The WCHS needs time to develop a funding plan to support their operations and the level of community support. Funding should continue until this is completed.
  • Museums are the best use of the buildings. Any other uses would require significant updates and remodeling that would destroy the historic features and character of the building.
  • The Courthouse Square property was deeded to the County by four families specifically to be for the use and benefit of the county forever.
  • The Old Courthouse is an iconic symbol of Washington County and should represent the people of Washington County.
  • The Museums attract visitors from outside the area contributing to the tourism activity and sales tax revenue to the County.
  • The buildings and museums create a sense of place for our families and children as to the development of the county from early pioneer days to the present.
  • The Courthouse and Jail/Sheriff’s Residence are listed on the National Register of Historic Sites for historic significance locally, regionally and nationally.
  • Once destroyed and the WCHS collection disposed of, it is gone forever.  Future generations will never have the history of their community accessible.
  • The History Center is a part of the community’s quality of life which attracts families, seniors, and a workforce. Cutting these facilities will impact economic development and sales tax dollars.
  • Previous County Boards for over 100 years have felt the county has a responsibility to preserve community history.
  • Encourage the County Board Supervisors to become members of the Society and attend programs.    Only a handful of the 26 Supervisors are members or attends any programs.
Who should I contact if I wish to speak to the WCHS Board of Directors?
For more information contact Patricia Lutz, Executive Director at director@historyisfun.com or 262-335-4678.

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