The Neville Public Museum

The Neville Blog

Victorian Secrets at the Neville

Friday, May 08, 2015

A couple weeks ago, we had an interesting luncheon program here at the museum.  It featured a presentation on underwear…Victorian era underwear to be exact.  The Victorian period ranges from 1837-1901, beginning at the time of Queen Victoria’s reign and lasting until her death.   When we think about this time period we often think about the big dresses but what we overlook is how much is going on underneath.  

As the staff was thinking about this unique topic, our director decided this would be a great opportunity to display some artifacts from our collection that aren’t usually exhibited.  So we pulled these four pieces from storage for the program and our blog readers will get to view a special bonus artifact not featured in the program!


Object #375/248:  This bustle is a great example of a “man” made bustle from ca. 1880.  During the late 1800s men realized that there was money to be made in the ladies undergarment business and thought they could create a better bustle.  This spring bustle is made of the same springs that would be found in a bed or other furniture.  

Object #7220/3075: This bustle was meant to create the “swan” shape that was popular towards the end of the Victorian era ca. 1890.  It is padded with horsehair which you can actually see poking out in the image.  These types of bustles were mass produced.   Bustle







Object #4192/1928: These drawers date to ca. 1850 and are handmade.  They are typical of the time in that the crotch is open but unique with the use of suspenders on the garment (drawstrings are more typical).  







Object #11,838/1984.82:  These undergarments were worn next to the skin to protect the outer garments from body oils and sweat.  The frills and decorative nature of this garment was most popular during the 1870s.  

Skirt Supporting Corset


Bonus: Skirt Supporting Corset

Object #4194/1928: Later in the Victorian era pieces of undergarments were combined into one piece, like this one.  This particular garment from ca. 1870 acted as a corset and a bustle to add lift to the skirt.  


The Neville would like to thank Leslie Bellais, curator of social history at the Wisconsin Historical Society for her entertaining presentation and her help in spotlighting the special history of these artifacts.




Leslie Bellais speaking at the Neville Public Museum

152nd Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Burial

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Abraham Lincoln was laid to rest 152 years ago on April 28, 1865 in Springfield, Illinois.  Following his assassination two weeks earlier, his body was laid in state in the nation's Capital and was transported to Springfield by train.  

Lincoln spent time in Wisconsin during his brief military career, serving in the Black Hawk War, and last visited the state in 1859 as a potential presidential candidate.  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.

Abraham Lincoln and Son

Green Bay's most famous dinosaurs help the Neville celebrate it's 100th Anniversary!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On a sunny October morning in 2002, ghosts of the Cretaceous first appeared outside the front entrance of the Neville Public Museum. Since that day, the skeletons of a mother Tyrannosaurus Rex and her child—later named “Big Mama” and “Baby Bones”—have welcomed and inspired visitors. These two iconic metal sculptures by Don Debaker have become synonymous with the Neville Public Museum, and are, in many ways, an embodiment of the Neville’s history and identity.

Debaker’s artworks are the result of a lifelong love of art, technical ability, and partnerships with museum experts, private donors, and local companies. Debaker, a boilermaker by trade, fused his love of art, especially sculpture, with his skill as a welder nearly twenty years ago when he began making small shovel-birds and butterflies. One day, inspired by his find of a large industrial-sized chain—perfect for a dino spine!—Debaker began work on his first dinosaur. It wasn’t long before word-of-mouth spread the news of Debaker’s creations.

In 2001, the director of the Neville, Gene Umberger, approached Debaker about crafting a unique sculpture for the museum. It was decided that the recognizable form of tyrannosaur was just the thing to stand guard at the Neville’s front doors . Not long after work had begun on the large T-Rex, the museum eagerly requested a second, smaller dinosaur to accompany it. Debaker spent the following months fabricating pieces and welding the skeletons together in a friend’s shop. Finally, the pair was unveiled and dedicated at 11:00am on October 5th, 2002.

For ten years, the pair of dinosaurs lurked in front of the Neville until one day they disappeared. Under the advisement of the Neville’s then-director and resident paleontologist, Rolf Johnson, the dinosaurs were refurbished and adjusted to reflect a more correct anatomical stance. Working as part of the team housed at Renco Machine, Debaker took part in the project, noting that the incorrect posture of the skeletons was something that had long bothered him as well. When Big Mama and Baby Bones returned to the Neville in December of 2012, they boasted a new coat of paint and better lighting along with their new pose.

Neither the creation of the sculptures nor their later refurbishment could have been possible without the generous financial support and cooperation of local donors and businesses. A former Green Bay resident, Mrs. Margueritte Gardner, originally supplied the funding for the dinosaurs. Mrs. Gardner’s continued support would later help beautify the Neville by providing means to pay for new shrubbery, flowers, and a bench. Later, in an echo of her previous gift, the mural of dinosaurs in the children’s Discovery Room was also made possible through her generosity. Renco Machine, Inc. and Ideal Crane Rental, Inc. provided further support. These local businesses were both essential partners in the removal, readjustment, and return of Big Mama and Baby Bones.      

As the Neville  prepares for its centennial in 2015, a celebration is in order, and no celebration is complete without the proper attire! Once again, the Neville, Debaker, and Renco Machine, Inc. are partnering to make sure Big Mama and Baby Bones are prepared for the centennial by  making them each a customized party  hat. Debaker, who always approaches his work with a smile, embraces the idea and is happy to have some help on the project.

Big Mama and Baby Bones have, for good reason, become the symbols of the Neville Public Museum. Like the museum , they are products of cooperation, generosity, talent, and community support. In that way, they are truly an embodiment of museums  history and mission . As the Neville has evolved, so have they. The values that these sculptures represent are at the core of the Neville’s identity as an important community partner, a strong advocate for the arts, and a place where generations can come to explore the rich heritage of this region. 

Jordan Koel joined the Neville staff in May 2014. He holds both a B.A. and M.A. in the history of art and architecture. Jordan works closely with Kevin Cullen to assist in research, curation, and the installation of exhibits. His interest in the history of art stems from a curiosity about objects that are perceived as standing outside of the ordinary. While Jordan’s most recent research focused on early medieval sacred art, his areas of interest span a wide range of time periods and mediums.    

Safe Harbor: Lighthouses of Green Bay

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lighthouses have guided seafarers through treacherous waters for thousands of years. These navigational aids first began as fires on coastal hills, but eventually developed into tall structures visible for miles.  In American maritime history, lighthouses were equally as crucial for safe navigation.  The first being built in Boston in 1716.  On the Great Lakes, the first lighthouse was built in 1804 at the mouth of the Niagara River in Lake Ontario.

Wisconsin’s first lighthouse, Pottawatomie, was built in 1836 on Rock Island at the entrance to Green Bay. Construction of new lights accelerated in the mid - late 1800s to accommodate increased maritime traffic in Green Bay and Lake Michigan.  Lighthouses     today are fully automated and continue to guide vessels into safe harbor. 

Given this maritime history, the Neville Public Museum recently installed a temporary exhibit entitled, Safe Harbor: Lighthouses of Green Bay.  This exhibit features historic photographs of the lighthouses in Green Bay, from the museum’s extensive historic photography collection, as well as recent photographs taken by lighthouse enthusiast George McCourt.  By contrasting historic images with George’s contemporary images, it allows the viewer to appreciate the lighthouses that remain standing and those that have vanished from sight.

In addition to photographs the exhibit features two historic logbooks from the Grassy Island Lighthouse. They were recently donated to the Neville Public Museum by the family of Frank Baumann.  The logs record the day-to-day life on Green Bay’s Grassy Island between 1896 and 1927.  They were completed by the lighthouse keepers Ole Hansen and Louis Hutzler who lived and worked on Grassy Island during the months of April to December, when marine traffic navigated to and from the port of Green Bay. 

This exhibit was initiated by George McCourt, because of his passion and knowledge of lighthouses throughout the United States.  I asked George when he first became interested in lighthouses and what it is about them he finds so interesting.

“While on a business trip in Portland Maine in June 1995, after having a great seafood dinner on the shore below the Cape Elizabeth Twin Lights, we visited the Portland Head Light. While in the airport gift shop waiting for my flight home, I purchased a photo book of Maine lighthouses. I was hooked and have visited 136 lighthouses in 14 states since then. There are many aspects of lighthouses that I find intriguing such as: visiting them, at times in remote locations, climbing the towers, taking photos, and learning their histories. I am particularly interested in researching the history and old photos of the Long Tail Point Lighthouses here in Green Bay. I have been researching them for the past 14 years. I have an extensive collection of lighthouse books and have attended the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival in Alpena Michigan and the Door County Lighthouse Walk/Festival many times.”

Furthermore, the exhibit features a 1/10th scale model of the “old stone tower” lighthouse on Long Tail Point. This replica was constructed primarily by David and Dr. Jane Jelinek, with assistance by George McCourt. The original limestone tower was completed in 1848 and was in use until 1859.  It featured six windows, a pine spiral staircase, and a birdcage-style lantern room. The stone tower stands to this day and measures 51’6” high, 25’ wide at the base, with 4’8” thick walls at the base, tapering to an exterior width of 12’9”at the top, with 2’6” thick walls. It was originally lit with nine oil burning lamps (Winslow Lewis Argand-style) each outfitted with a fourteen inch parabolic silver coated reflector. During its tenure, the lighthouse keepers were John P. Dousman 1849-1853 and Thomas Atkinson 1853-1859.

Finally, visitors to this exhibit will be able to take the content with them by downloading the customized exhibit mobile app designed by Zymo Entertainment. The Neville Safe Harbor” app is available for download on iTunes and will allow the user to navigate to the lighthouses discussed in the exhibit, in addition to several others along Lake Michigan’s western shore.

Bringing Holiday Memories of Downtown Green Bay to Life

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

For me, the phrase "Christmas in July" is pretty accurate.  I've been lucky enough to have designed our Prange's Holiday Memories windows for the last two years.  Working on the holiday display is by far my favorite part of the year because I get to flex my artistic muscles and create fun and unique dioramas that make people smile.  

Putting these windows together is no small feat.  Planning this year's windows started as soon as last year's exhibit was up and running.  This year I'm working with our curator, Kevin Cullen, and educator, Kirsten Smith, to put everything together.  After a two years hiatus, the Enchanted Forest is making its triumphant return with the various farm and wildlife critters playing in the snow among the trees and snow babies.  This year you'll also get to see two ideas that I've been thinking about the last few years that happen to be the perfect compliment to this year's extended exhibit-Holiday Memories of Downtown Green Bay.  

As soon as the theme(s) are decided I get to work on the actual design of the displays.  The dolls and other figures are chosen, tested out to make sure they're still in working order, and then the creativity begins.  I lay out the dolls in each of their cases and start to sketch out what the backdrop is going to be.  Then I begin building the scene and determine what kind of furniture or three-dimensional objects the figures can interact with, and what will enhance the backdrop.  I use a modest stockpile of props that I've accumulated throughout the years.  That which I don't find, I decide either to buy, or more often than not, build.  

Once the case is roughly planned out I start refining the sketches and looking at reference photos.  More details are added later once the dolls are in place and I can see what would complement the scene.  Each case takes at least a month of work before they get to the level that you see when they're on display.  

I also like to put a little humor into things.  Sometimes it's a mischievous looking snow baby hoarding a pile of snowballs, or one of the dogs playfully inspecting a picture of a squirrel, or a mouse pilfering a candy cane from the family's tree.  

Getting the opportunity to flex my inner artist and imagination is not the only reason this display is my favorite to work on.  I get a lot of satisfaction seeing people respond favorably to the things that spring forth from my brain.  But it goes beyond the personal satisfaction.  Seeing the way that people react to this exhibit in particular is different from other exhibits.  It's a family experience and it spans generations.  I see grandparents, great-grandparents, their kids, and their kids' kids all come and share a moment that becomes a memory.  People travel from around the state and sometimes even further to remember.  Memories like that, and being a part of triggering and creating new ones, is quite an experience.  

Downtown Green Bay, the Prange's windows, Kaaps, Bruce the Spruce etc. are still in our community's living memory.  By creating the experiences for the next generations, we are able to extend that living memory for another lifetime.  So come out and make some memories this holiday season! 

Maggie Dernehl
Exhibit Technician 

Exciting Things Are Brewing At the Neville Public Museum

Friday, October 10, 2014
The art of fermentation, specifically beer making, has been pursued by human cultures around the world for millennia.  That knowledge and tradition was brought to Wisconsin by immigrant Northern Europeans in the early 1800s.  Beer brewed in Green Bay began flowing in the early 1850s and it has continued to flow for at least 160 years.  It is precisely this history and diverse tradition of beer-making that inspired me to take up the hobby of home brewing while in graduate school at UW-Milwaukee. That hobby quickly turned into a profession when I joined the museum staff at Discovery World and applied my anthropological studies in the pursuit of teaching the public about how to make ancient and traditional fermented beverages.  That series called Ale through the Ages quickly spawned other brewing series, as well as historical brewery tours, publications, etc.   

Since joining the staff at Neville Public Museum in October 2013, I’m proud to say that the museum is fully embracing its own local beer culture.  It’s hard not to, when two craft breweries (Hinterland and Titletown) are located across the street from the museum, and coincidently, the very first brewery in Green Bay (Blesch’s Bay Brewery) was also once located across the street.  As fate would have it, one of the first exhibits I was fortunate to curate was Agriculture to Tavern Culture: The Art History and Science of Beer. The outgrowth of this exhibit were well attended free lectures about beer history, and now we’re about to launch a new slate of brewing workshops called the Neville Cellar Series.  These classes would not have been possible were it not for the generous financial support of the museum’s Foundation, who allowed me to purchase of a 15 gallon top-of-the-line home brewing setup. This equipment has great versatility and can be used to make a variety of beverages (fermented or not) in the months and years to come.

September 10th 2014 marked the first day beer was made at the Neville.  The inaugural batch was a Bavarian Dunkelweizen (lightly hopped dark wheat ale).  It was a good chance to test the equipment and work out some of the kinks.  It was also a good excuse to invite WLUK Fox11 reporter Bill Miston to film and assist in making the inaugural museum brew.  Here is a link to that segment.  

The first of the Neville Cellar Series workshops began on Thursday October 2nd when we made the official version of the Bavarian Dunkelweizen, while learning about the deep tradition of brewing in southern Germany. Two weeks following the brewing session, the class will bottle their resulting beverage and take it home.  Future classes will focus on the ethnic heritage of NE Wisconsin and the fermented beverages that are traditional to those cultures, namely Belgian Farmhouse Ales, Scandinavian Porters, etc. So, stop down and check out the exhibit before it ends (Oct. 26th 2014), and/or, join us in making beer (or soda) during the Neville Cellar Series . Together we can imbibe the rich tradition of brewing in Green Bay, Wisconsin and beyond. 


Kevin Cullen

Adventure Ahoy! Summer Readers' Party

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Avast! There be pirates sailin’ these waters!

On Saturday, October 4th, the young buccaneers of Brown County Library’s Summer Reading Program hijacked the museum for an afternoon of pirate fun. Swashbucklers and landlubbers alike were treated to science shenanigans, handicrafts, and frolics related to water, aquatic beasties, boats, and pirates. There were plenty of activities to pillage and spoils to plunder. Highlights included instruction on how to Talk like a Pirate in 30 Minutes or Less, a special visit by Jonathan London’s Froggy, and a treasure hunt through the museum gallery.

Both the Neville Public Museum and the Brown County Library extend a special thank you to all of the volunteers who helped to make this event a success!

For information on how you can join the 2015 Summer Reading Program and obtain an invitation to next year’s party, please see the Brown County Library’s website.

Night at the Neville - Astronomy, Geology & Film Programs

Friday, October 03, 2014

Twice a month, in the evenings on the first and third Wednesday, the museum comes to life. 

It doesn't involve Ben Stiller or living statues - but the Neville's programs on Wednesday night offer some of the best opportunities around to learn and explore Geology, Astronomy and Independent Film - no movie tickets required.

This week, I'd like to highlight the International Film Series, presented by the Green Bay Film Society. Twice a month on Wednesdays a different independent film is shown in the Neville Theater, free of charge and open to the public. After the film, a discussion is held where the audience can offer questions and feedback, typically fielded by Associate professor of Humanistic and Global studies at UWGB, David Coury.In this case, the discussion was led by the film's main figure and co-director David Soap, as well as producer Kristina Kiehl.

This week's film was The Cherokee Word for Water, a feature-length motion picture inspired by the true story of the struggle for, opposition to, and ultimate success of a rural Cherokee community to bring running water to their families by using the traditional concept of "gadugi" working together to solve a problem.

What really struck me during the screening and subsequent discussion was just how powerful and inspiring a community can be; the Independent filmmaking community, the Native American community (as represented in the film), and the local geographic community. But as casual moviegoers and indie film buffs alike partook in the discussion with figureheads from the Cherokee community, it was clear that the separation between these communities was of little significance compared to their commonalities. 

Film is an incredibly powerful storytelling medium, and one that is becoming increasingly more accessible to small, independent filmmakers and those outside of a traditional studio setting. During the film's discussion it was announced that The Cherokee Word for Water would be made available to purchase directly as a digital download on the film's website, bypassing traditional distribution mechanisms. Through the rest of 2014 and into 2015 the Neville looks forward to partnering with the Green Bay Film Society to bring these stories, as well as their storytellers, to our community in a way that goes beyond what can be had at a theater or via DVD or Blu-ray. Check out the schedule of upcoming screenings here

Hold Your Next Event at the Neville!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
The origins of the Neville Public Museum of Brown County began in 1915, when nine local women formed the Green Bay Art Club and held a modest exhibit of rare and important objects owned by area residents. 

During our yearlong Centennial Celebration we have a great combination of internally created exhibits including the 70th Art Annual Juried Exhibition, traveling exhibits such as Spies, Traitors, Saboteurs:  Fear and Freedom in America from the International Spy Museum and wonderful partnership exhibits including Centennial Architecture of Green Bay:  Berners-Schober and their Archives-100+ Years of Green Bay Architecture and Sisters in Spirit: Native American Stories in Rocks and Beads with Karen Ann Hoffman and Geri Schrab. 

This is the perfect time to join us at the Neville Public Museum for your next event.  We provide a unique combination of location, service, and environment to make us your ideal place for parties, meetings, corporate events, recitals and more.  For questions on room reservations, please email Jessica Day, or call her at 920-448-7872.  

Please visit for more details. 

New Teaching Collection Opens Opportunities for Object-Based Learning

Friday, September 05, 2014
How can rocks change from one type to another? What was it like to travel and explore Wisconsin 400 years ago? How did Wisconsin’s early settlers use our natural resources? 
Visitors attending the museum’s newest education program will discover the answers to these questions – and more – by analyzing objects from the newly established teaching collection. 

Made possible through the generosity of Schreiber Foods, the teaching collection complements a new educational program consisting of 20 inquiry-driven, object-based lessons that tie into central themes from the museum’s permanent exhibit, On the Edge of the Inland Sea.
Areas of exploration include:

1. Thinking like a Historian
What does it mean to think like a historian?

2. The Rock Cycle
How can rocks change from one type to another?

3. A Landscape Shaped Over Time
How did the Ice Age shape Wisconsin?

4. Plants and Animals of the Ice Age
What plants and animals existed at the end of the Ice Age?

5. Wisconsin’s First People
How do we know about people who lived long ago?

6. Native Americans in the Old Time
How did Native American people live in the Old Time?

7. The Age of Exploration
What was it like to travel and explore Wisconsin 400 years ago?

8. The Fur Trade Era
Who participated in the Fur Trade?

9. Treaty Making
What happened to Native American lands in the early 1800s?

10. Building a Town / Building a State
What did the U.S. government do with the land that it got through treaties?

11. Natural Resources
How did Wisconsin’s settlers use our natural resources?

12. Civil War
How did the Civil War affect the people of Wisconsin?

13. Immigration
How do people make a new life in a new place?

14. Peshtigo Fire
What factors led to the Peshtigo Fire?

15. Mass Production and Domestic Life
How did mass production change domestic life during the Gilded Age?

16. The Age of Invention
How did the inventions of the early 1900s change Green Bay?

17. Native Americans in the Modern World
How has Wisconsin’s history affected its Native American people and their way of life?

18. World War I
How did World War I affect Wisconsin?

19. Culture in Northeastern Wisconsin
What are some of the cultural traditions in Northeastern Wisconsin?

20. Preserving History
How do people take care of Wisconsin’s history?

Supporting these lessons are a diverse array of objects, ranging from a physics model of a glacier, to the teeth left behind by Ice Age titans, to the material culture of the immigrant groups who would later settle in this region. 
Students will explore the surfaces and materials of authentic and reproduction objects; feeling their weight; and manipulating them, as they must have been handled by their past owners. The physical nature of the activity allows visitors to experience a sense of discovery and excitement as they draw connections between the unfamiliar objects they hold and their own base of experiences. Two new Samsung tablets will supplement the teaching collection, with music, videos, and primary source materials such as photographs, maps, patents, and more!

One of the major strengths of this program is that it is fully customizable and can be adapted to suit a wide range of audiences, interests, and learning modalities. Listed below are just a few of the possibilities:

1.  Target Audience: School Groups
In addition to “Thinking like a Historian” and “Preserving History,” teachers can select up to three areas of focus. These areas will be covered in-depth during their visit and include elements of role-play, storytelling, and hands-on experiences for their students.

2.  Target Audience: High School Students
High school students can volunteer to become Junior Expedition Leaders. Through this mentorship program, students will learn a thematic area and interpretive techniques before progressing to provide family programming on Explorer Saturdays.

3. Target Audience: Families
Beginning in the new year, families visiting the Neville Public Museum on the first day of the month will have the opportunity to participate in Explorer Saturdays, interacting with the Junior Expedition Leaders and objects from the teaching collection.

4. Target Audience: Individuals with Memory Loss
Finally, these objects enable the museum to extend its collections to create meaningful experiences for older adults with dementia and their caregivers.

There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with this exciting program! Teachers may reserve the program for their students by contacting Kirsten Smith at 920-448-7851 or Individuals wishing to volunteer as Expedition Leaders can find the Neville Public Museum’s volunteer application here.

Special thanks to Schreiber Foods for their generous support of this project.

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