Presented in collaboration with UW–Madison Public History Project, exhibition highlights history of struggle, persistence and resistance on campus
MADISON, Wis. – The groundbreaking exhibition Sifting & Reckoning: UW–Madison’s History of Exclusion and Resistance at the Chazen Museum of Art is in its final weeks on view, closing on Dec. 23. Presented by the University of Wisconsin–Madison Public History Project, the exhibition offers the university community an unprecedented opportunity to learn from its own histories of discrimination and resistance, challenging viewers to sift and reckon with the past.
The exhibition illuminates the multifaceted ways that racism and exclusion permeated campus life throughout the university’s history and examines how the community responded, organized and resisted. Through a thematic approach, Sifting & Reckoning provides insight into the various experiences of marginalized students as they navigated inequity in student organizations, housing and academic life.
Since its opening, Sifting & Reckoning has garnered strong community interest, recording more than 20,000 visitors and 142 scheduled tours. There have been 7,800 visits to its companion website from people representing 47 states and 25 countries.
“We are proud to partner with the UW–Madison Public History Project to host this extremely important exhibition. Since the moment Sifting & Reckoning opened, it has generated extraordinary interest and attendance,” said Amy Gilman, director of the Chazen. “This level of response reinforces how important it is for us to acknowledge our shared histories together and emphasizes why we wanted to host it here at the Chazen, which is a place of dialogue, discussion and contemplation. This is how we create a more equitable future for UW–Madison.”
The UW–Madison Public History Project is an initiative started in 2019 by Chancellor Rebecca Blank to uncover and give voice to the histories of discrimination, exclusion and resistance at the university. In addition to the physical exhibition at the Chazen, the project research is accessible to the public through an exhibition website, curricular materials, a lecture series and more.
“More and more, powerful institutions of higher education are recognizing the need to reckon with their past,” said Kacie Lucchini Butcher, the director of the Public History Project and curator of Sifting & Reckoning. “This exhibition is groundbreaking because of its focus on the history of discrimination and resistance on our own campus, and not only on ties to outside events. It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on what happened here at UW–Madison so that we can better understand what we need to do in order to create a more equitable future.”
Sifting & Reckoning offers visitors the opportunity to engage with rarely displayed artifacts from the UW archives, including the Pipe of Peace, a ceremonial object used by white students in a popular mock Native ceremony. Also on view are protest flyers, created by students fighting against racism and posted across the campus; buttons and athletic memorabilia; yearbooks; and photographs and film. Recorded oral histories, available on the project’s website, share an intimate firsthand account of the culture of exclusion. The exhibition includes interactive opportunities for visitors to reflect and discuss the complicated histories presented.
In addition to Lucchini Butcher, the exhibition is co-curated by Taylor Bailey, assistant director of the Public History Project; Adriana Arthur, graduate student researcher and curatorial assistant; the Public History Project Steering Committee; and collaborative partnerships with student groups, community partners and campus stakeholders.
The UW–Madison Public History Project was made possible with support and funding provided by the Office of the Chancellor.