The Neville Public Museum
The Neville Blog
The land surrounding the Fox River was highly desired for it controlled trade through the waterway. Three hundred years ago in 1717 the French were first stationed in Green Bay. The French fort, Fort La Baye, like Fort Howard was built on the opening of the Fox River. The French fort stood until 1760; for 43 years the French were a major influence in North Eastern Wisconsin. We can see the impact of the French in Wisconsin, especially in our area, when we think of Charles De Langlade, also known as the “Father” of Wisconsin, who was a French military officer. De Langlade and his family were one of the first inhabitants of Green Bay.
After the French had abandoned their location during the Fox Wars the English relocated to where Fort La Baye had stood and built Fort Edward Augustus. The English also saw the potential of the Fox River. Fort Edward Augustus was abandoned in 1763 during the Pontiac Uprising, yet the inhabitants of Green Bay remained dedicated to the English.
After the War of 1812 the British no longer had claim to the area and plans were being made for American forces to be moved into the area to control the Fox River. This wasn't the only reason the 3rd Regiment of the United States Army Infantry was placed in Green Bay. The larger goal of placing American soldiers here was to "Americanize" this newly attained land and to acclimate the people of the area with a new spirit of patriotism.
Fort Howard was vital for America's grasp on the Northwestern frontier. Our very own Fox River was hugely important in America's expansion to the West. Through the control of trade on the waterway that was so sought after by the other nations America now had another key to prosperity. Looking back I never fully realized how truly important our own little area was to the growth of this part of the nation. Over the last couple weeks I have been able to explore artifacts from the Neville's collection that were used in the Life and Death at Fort Howard exhibit which ran from April 2016 through April 2017. From maps to muskets the story that is told through the artifacts of Fort Howard speak volumes on how influential the fort was in creating the place we call home today.
If you want to learn more about America's beginnings and the men who forged the way don't miss our upcoming event America! on June 21st. You can get more information and tickets here.
The Alice in Dairyland program got its start in 1948 at the Wisconsin Centennial Celebration at the State Fair. The idea was to find a young woman to be the face of Wisconsin Dairy that would travel across the country promoting the big event at the fair. Alice in Dairyland even had a special building on the fairgrounds with exhibits and a 10 foot tall robotic Alice. This technological marvel could sit, stand, and even talk to visitors. The Alice robot was used at the State Fair for the next decade.
Margaret McGuire of Highland, Wisconsin, at age 18, was the first to hold the title of Alice. She traveled in Wisconsin and across the country promoting the Wisconsin State Fair and was even given her own plane for her travels. When Margaret was chosen, the qualifications were simply, “beauty and health, general personality, and ability to present herself and her message before large groups.” In the 1950s the process became more elaborate. Alice princesses were named in June and the next two months were spent interviewing for the position. The final Alice was named in August.
Today, Alice is much less a beauty queen but rather a public relations professional. In the first round of the selection process, applications are evaluated based on resumes, personal interviews, and communications ability. If she passes this round, she still has to impress a selection panel during the three-day finals. This includes creating a presentation based on one of six agribusiness tours taken during those three days. Throughout the finals she is evaluated on public speaking skills, discussion panel participation, an interview with the selection panel and TV and radio interview skills. All of this will take place this week in Brown County.
This year marks the fourth time Brown County will host the Alice in Dairyland Finals. Brown County has previously hosted the Finals in 1958 (St. Norbert College), 1967 (Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena) and 1978 (Carlton Inn West). This year will be one of the largest finals events ever held at legendary Lambeau Field. Not only is the venue big, there is a record number of previous Alices attending the event. Thirty three of sixty nine Alices are expected to attend. Among them is Margaret (McGuire) Blott, the first Alice. They will all be visiting the Neville Public Museum before the final event at Lambeau on May 13th to see the exhibit Alice in Dairyland: Wisconsin’s Agricultural Ambassador. This special exhibit explores the impact Wisconsin agriculture has on our everyday lives, along with Alice, in a one of a kind hands-on experience.
Alice in Dairyland has been an important part of the Wisconsin Agriculture community over the past 70 years. The Alice in Dairyland exhibit and the 70th Alice Finals hosted by Brown County are a celebration of the rich history and exciting future of Alice in Dairyland.
The Neville Public Museum is proud to hold in our collection a signed photograph of the president and his son Tad, taken in 1864. Lincoln rarely signed photographs, but two signed copies were gifted to the president's secretary Gustav Matile about one year before Lincoln's death. After Lincoln was assassinated, Matile worked as a lawyer in Minnesota and then served as U.S. Court Commissioner for Wisconsin's Eastern District in Green Bay. When Matile died in 1908, he gave the photograph to the Kellogg Public Library where it was kept until sold to the Green Bay & De Pere Antiquarian Society in 2007.
The image was used on popular commemorative cards and prints after Lincoln's death, but the Neville Public Museum holds one of the only two known original prints, and the president's signature makes this photograph exceptionally uncommon.
On April 23, 1983 the Neville Public Museum of Brown County opened the doors of our current building to the public. In celebration of our building’s anniversary and of our continued partnership with the Green Bay Art Colony we installed a new Little Free Library on our grounds. Our Little Free Library is modeled after the building that started it all, the former Kellogg Library, and honors the Green Bay Art Colony.
A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. Little Free Library book exchanges have a unique, personal touch. There is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community; Little Libraries have been called “mini-town squares.” We're so excited to bridge communities and connect generations through our new Little Free Library!
Helen is one of several special women that lived here in Brown County that valued the arts and the preservation of history. Helen’s dedication to preservation of history is most evident in her hard work to make our current museum building a reality. Helen served as President of the Neville Public Museum Corporation. Before 1983 the museum sat in a smaller and less conducive building on Jefferson St. Helen fought for a new facility that was eventually supported by the county, the city, and private donors, a true community project. Here is Helen breaking ground with the County Executive, the Mayor, and the Museum Director.
We have several artifacts in our collection that reflect Helen’s continued dedication to education, local history and the arts. The collection includes a diary, scrapbooks and letters from her time in London in 1948 and 1949 when she participated in the Teacher Exchange Program. We also care for awards given to her for her many accomplishments in education and here at the museum. Helen’s focus on education and interest in history led her to co-author the text book “It Happened Here” in 1949. We have a copy of it in our research library. Later in life she continued her education by taking different art courses. Works of art she created are also held in our collection.
The museum is thankful for people like Helen that continually support our mission and fight to preserve local history and engage the arts.
Fortunately, a large portion of the research on the guns was already done. Considering the generosity of our donors, the importance that firearms played in the establishment of Green Bay, and the significance of Fort Howard, the museum has hosted a number of exhibits featuring guns and other weaponry. Dresses however, not as much. Although the fashion collection is quite large and the donors just as generous, there hasn’t yet been an occasion to “dress up”… until now.
One of the biggest challenges we faced when choosing artifacts for this event was something that wasn’t apparent from the start. The initial idea for the event was to use time periods where we knew we would have a good selection of firearms, and then find gowns to match. However, as we searched through collections it became clear that the periods for which we had some of the most interesting guns, typically wartime, were also times when, for many reasons, fashion was not a priority.
The Civil War and WWII periods were the most challenging. The Neville certainly has dresses from both era’s but few of them, if any, reach “gown” status. Most of them are either practical, every-day type fashions, or made specifically for a purpose or job. It was more important for most people during wartime to keep their families safe and fed, than to worry about frills and bows.
For example, the beautiful gun-metal grey wedding dress we will be displaying alongside our Civil War firearms was originally worn in 1853 by Louisa Gardner. At this time it still would have been relatively uncommon for women to wear white on their wedding day. Often they would either wear their best dress to the ceremony, or have a dress made which they could also use on other occasions. This wedding dress was worn again a decade later by Gardner’s stepdaughter, Mrs. O.C. Ely but we don’t know for certain why. Considering how beautiful this gown is even over 160 years later, it may have been reused because it was such a lovely dress, or because it was a family heirloom. It may also be possible that it was practical choice in uncertain times, or some combination of reasons.
In the case of the Civil War and WWII dresses, as often happens when doing historical research, the lack of evidence or artifacts is just as interesting as having a lot to choose from.
#1 Life and Death at Fort Howard
This immersive experience leads visitors through tales of murder, lost love, and even whiskey smuggling. You’re transported back 200 years when Green Bay was home to a booming fur trade. In 1816, the U.S. Army threw themselves into the mix. What happens when soldiers from the east coast are forced into a community of French, Métis, and Native peoples? You’ll have to see the exhibit to find out.
Fort Howard went beyond the exhibit floor- it was the subject of several interesting programs including public archaeology of the site and a lively performance of the fort’s biggest foe, Ebenezer Childs by Let Me Be Frank Productions.
The exhibition opened in April 2016 and doesn’t close until April 2017. This means you still have time to check it out!
#2 Morbid Curiosities
When we started planning to pull out some of our morbid artifacts for a special Halloween event, we weren’t certain what the response would be. We sure were surprised when the event for only 25 people quickly sold out. The team ended up accommodating more than 150 people that evening. Visitors shared their haunted experiences and were able to explore morbid artifacts and their stories not usually on display.
If you missed it this year make sure to get tickets early for next year’s Halloween- themed event!
#3 #NevilleCats and Feline Fine
We were overwhelmed by the response to our Instagram contest #NevilleCats. Cat lovers were able to submit photos of their feline friends and winners were chosen for display in the museum. In the end we had over 1,000 photos submitted! All of this accompanied the traveling exhibition Feline Fine. Feline Fine featured art in all different mediums from artists all over the country. The works for art depicted all different kinds of cats, from our favorite household pets to African Lions.
#4 Nebula Jars and Explorer WednesdayTo accompany our astronomy exhibit, Eyes on the Sky, our educator thought it would be fun to create nebula jars on Explorer Wednesday in August. This also had an overwhelming response and we’re grateful to have been able to share this experience with over 100 families.
Explorer Wednesday is every first Wednesday of the month during our free night for Brown County residents.
#5 Ice Age Imperials
This traveling exhibition not only transported visitors back in time but also allowed them to touch fossils! It’s not every day you get to touch a dire wolf tooth or giant sloth claw. The arrival of this exhibit was a great chance for us to pull out some fossils from our collection, including our mammoth tusk from Alaska!
There were so many more events and exhibits that helped make 2016 a great year for the Neville. Did we miss your favorite? Comment and let us know what your favorite exhibit/event/program was this past year!
Guests enjoyed great food, a silent auction, entertainment from the John Kelley Duo and Shawn Connelly & Jordan Christianson, and several activity stations including a photo opportunity, a demo by the local chapter of the Embroiderers Guild of America, a Rug Display by the Green Bay & De Pere Antiquarians, a demo of a historic card game, Bruce the Spruce, an Archaeology station and more.
The success of the event was attributed to the participation of over 130 guests, the sale of 38 silent auction baskets/experiences, and Lego Lambeau Fan Sales. We had the generous support of many silent auction donors, 18 table and station sponsors and individual ticket buyers. We also benefited from generous discounts and outright donations by our supportive vendors. Many thanks are extended to all involved.
On behalf of the Foundation Board of Directors and the planning committee, we extend a special thank you to all of our sponsors, donors, volunteers and guests that helped make the event a great success! We greatly appreciate your support in helping to create a community legacy of bridging communities and connecting generations!
Executive Director, Neville Public Museum Foundation
One of the two photography displays I created was During the Winter which features photographs of the H.C. Prange Co. department store. Coming into this process I had no idea what the store was, since the last store closed the year I was born. But after doing research and talking to members of the Neville staff and family members I was awed by the impression the store left on its visitors. H.C. Prange Co. was known for its magical window displays, especially during the holiday season.
Here are some of my favorite photos including H.C. Prange Co. and other winter scenes.
I was able to learn so much about Green Bay’s pastime and the wonderful holiday joy the department store was able to spread. Being able to set up the two exhibits was far more than I imagined doing. I am thankful that I was able to learn how to handle objects and photographs, scan photos, and prepare them for display. I even learned some history of Northeastern Wisconsin.
Explore Holiday Memories and During the Winter now through January 15, 2017!
This past July museum staff came across an interesting post on Facebook. Karl Vieau, a former H.C. Prange Co. employee shared this photo of what looked like a circus mirror.
Karl asked "Does anyone remember the circus mirror on 2nd floor mezzanine, kids department at the H.C. Prange store downtown Green Bay?"
If you know anything about the museum’s holiday displays, you know we are home to more than 50 figurines that once graced the Washington St. windows at H.C. Prange Co. in downtown Green Bay. Each year the museum puts together holiday displays with these figurines. The connection to the museum was obvious to us and to Facebook commenters. Museum Director, Beth Lemke commented herself inviting Karl to contact her about moving it to the museum.
After meeting with Karl it was clear how special this piece was to him and his memories of H.C. Prange. He graciously donated it to the museum for our holiday display. Now you can see the mirror for yourself right outside the Children Only Shop at the museum.
Holiday Memories is open November 18th through January 15th!
- Fort Howard: A Building Block for America
- Alice in Dairyland’s Return to Brown County
- 152nd Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Burial
- We Have a New Little Free Library!
- Who is Helen Ferslev?
- Guns & Gowns
- In Case You Didn’t CAT-ch It, We Had a STELLAR 2016!
- A Night at the Museum 2016
- H.C. Prange Co.: Bringing Back a Memory
- H.C. Prange Co. Mirror
- 2014 (1)
- Abraham Lincoln (2)
- Archaeology (3)
- architecture (3)
- Art (7)
- Art Annual (1)
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- Ashwaubenon (1)
- Astronomy (1)
- Barbie (2)
- Brown County (3)
- Collections (21)
- Eden-Scottsbluff (1)
- Education (5)
- Events (12)
- Exhibits (23)
- exhibits exposed (3)
- Film Collection (1)
- Fort Howard (9)
- Fox River (2)
- Green Bay De Pere Antiquarian Society (3)
- Green Bay Film Society (1)
- Guns (1)
- Independent Film (1)
- Internship (1)
- Kellogg Library (1)
- Mastodon (2)
- Neville (6)
- Northeast Wisconsin (4)
- On the Edge of the Inland Sea (5)
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- Underwater Archaeology (1)
- Victorian Era (1)
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- Weapons (1)
- Zachary Taylor (2)