When many of us hear that there is an exhibit at the museum about “architecture” we may not get overly excited, especially when we are looking forward to major traveling exhibits about spies and deep water exploration. When I was hired three months ago as the new Assistant Curator I was excited for Spies, Traitors, & Saboteurs (now open through September 6th) but I was also intrigued by an exhibit focused on one architectural firm and its body of work in Brown County. During my first 8 weeks on the job, my main focus was working with a team to prepare this “architecture” exhibit called Building Our Community: 100+ Years of Architecture & Design in Brown County. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the remarkable story this exhibit tells goes far beyond some old blueprints. This exhibit is an exploration of how one architecture firm, Berners-Schober Associates, has changed the landscape of Northeastern Wisconsin and how their work has touched thousands of lives throughout the last century. People live, work, and play every day within the walls of their designs. What this firm has created in their lifetime is deeply rooted in our community’s history and has shaped the way people of Brown County live their lives.
When you experience this exhibit you may be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work the Berners-Schober firm has done since its inception in 1898, but the reality is that what is displayed here is only the tip of the iceberg. During the firm’s lifetime, they have been involved in thousands of projects; this exhibit only includes 175 of these undertakings. To get the most out of this exhibit you will need to visit more than once, and you will want to. These are buildings we all visit at one time or another; the Brown County Public Library, the Downtown YMCA, Bay Beach Pavilion, and East High School, just to name a few. If you live in Brown County it’s undoubted that you have spent time in at least one of these buildings.
While growing up in Brown County I spent countless hours in several of these buildings but didn’t give any thought about how they came to be or their architectural significance. After living elsewhere for the last 5 years I’m happy to be back in Green Bay and this exhibit process has been an opportunity for me to get reacquainted my hometown and its history. I hope it does the same for others and encourages visitors to stop and take a look at the architectural beauty that surrounds us in Brown County. Building Our Community is open now through March 2016.
Lisa Zimmerman, Curator