Wisconsin’s Lost Coastal Communities; Science Outreach at 175; Wisconsin Weather Safety; A New Model of Human Origins in Africa

Hi WN@TL Fans,


As I was happily reminded last week by nearly every license plate in Montreal, “Je me souviens” is the motto of the province of Quebec.  It is a phrase poetically plump with ambiguity and nuance.  Mr. Higby at Dixon High School taught me that one need say only “je souviens” to say “I remember.”  The interpretation of reflexive three-word version is more misty, more mystical: I render it as “I remember when…” 


In Montreal, a vibrant city founded in 1642, there are reminders in the many markers and historic stone buildings that cluster around the old port along the St. Lawrence.  The same holds for Quebec city, founded in 1608, 150 miles up the river from Montreal, and the site of the Plains of Abraham (which in 1759 put the melancholy in je me souviens);  and finally upstream another 120 miles to Tadoussac, where the French established a trading post in 1599.


Here in Wisconsin, with the sailor on our state flag, some of our origins too are found in cities along the Great Lakes.  A few – notably La Pointe, Green Bay and Milwaukee — were French trading posts. Later on, under the British and then the Americans, in the years before paved or even plank roads and before the arrival of rail roads, the Lakes were often the easiest way to get freight and folks around.  Many of our predecessors were mariners on freshwater seas, plying from port to port in boats driven by sails or propelled by steam. 


This week we also get ‘to remember when’ as we find out how, unlike Montreal or Quebec, or Milwaukee and Manitowoc, not every port town got the chance to long endure.



(August 9) Amy Rosebrough, staff archeologist with the Wisconsin Historical Society, spoke on “Fire, Shipwreck, and Cheese—Wisconsin’s Lost Coastal Communities.” 


Description:  In the mid to late 19th centuries, dozens of small communities sprang up along the eastern shores of Wisconsin, each with its own lake pier and general store. The owners of the piers shipped forest and farm products to Chicago, and supplied incoming settlers with the income and goods they needed to survive. 


A Wisconsin Historical Society initiative is exploring the submerged and onshore remains of these lost ports, and tracing the histories of the people and ships that called them home. In the process, a forgotten chapter of Great Lakes history is coming to light. The lost ports tell stories of catastrophic fires, dangerous shoals, runaway horses, gossip columnists, eavesdropping clerks, and lots and lots of cheese. Most importantly, the story of Wisconsin’s lost coastal communities is the story of how Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan’s shoreline was transformed from timberland to today’s farms and cities. 


Bio: Dr. Amy Rosebrough is a Staff Archaeologist with the Office of the State Archaeologist at the Wisconsin Historical Society. A native of the Missouri Ozarks, she has long had an interest in burial monuments and archaeology. She is an alum of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she received her doctorate for region-wide re-analysis of Wisconsin’s effigy mounds and mound builders. She has worked as an archaeologist in the academic, private, and public sectors. In her current position at the Wisconsin Historical Society, she manages archaeological and burial sites data, assists Wisconsin’s citizens with archaeological questions, and serves as a subject matter expert. 



Next week August 16 I’ll return for my annual sojourn at the lectern with a talk on the outlooks for science outreach at Wisconsin’s two-time land-grant university as we commemorate the 175th anniversary of the founding in 1848 of what today is the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I’ll share some historical perspectives from the Wayback Machine, then focus on changes in places & programs in science outreach since the U’s sesquicentennial celebrations in 1998-99, and provide examples of initiatives & investments in science outreach at some other leading US universities that UW-Madison may want to emulate.


I’ll also be happy to hear your view of what my colleagues & I might want to do new in the next year or two or few.