The Society maintains and interprets history at four sites in DeForest. It is dedicated to preserving the history of DeForest and the surrounding area and toward this end collects, safeguards, and makes available a variety of materials that are relevant to the history of the area. It serves citizens from DeForest and Windsor Villages and portions of Burke, Leeds, and Vienna Townships, as defined by the the DeForest Area School District.
The Society does not assume any responsibility for seeking out and archiving in a comprehensive manner the community’s public documents (government, schools), but does include samples of these materials which have been donated over the years and are relevant.
Subjects Documented in the Society’s Collections
The DeForest Area Historical Society collects and archives materials about the following subjects, as they relate to area’s local history during the latter portion of the 19th Century, the 20th Century, and through the present time:
- Clothing and Personal Accessories
- Cemeteries (including most in Dane and Columbia Counties)
- Community Activities
- Community Organizations
- Families (including obituaries)
- Games, Toys and Dolls
- Government (limited selected materials from the Villages of DeForest and Windsor, Townships of Burke, Leeds, Vienna, Windsor)
- Military (including databases on veterans from all wars who address was the area at the time of entering the service)
- Postal Service
- Publications (limited numbers of selected books, catalogs, magazines, newspapers, phone directories, and audio-visual materials)
- Schools (including class photographs, annual catalogs, and yearbooks)
- Sports Activities (community and school)
- Transportation (including horse-drawn, air, land, and railroad vehicles)
Donations That Are Accepted or Rejected
The primary guideline for accepting materials is that they document the local history and help to tell the story of the origin and growth of the DeForest area. Therefore, materials that relate to the history of other communities are generally not sought and if received can be forwarded to other locations. Whenever possible, Society members should attempt to put donors in touch with other societies and museums throughout the State if their gifts are more suitable for other localities.
The archives do include limited amounts of materials relating to county, state, and federal history, especially if they impact the lives of local people. Generally, however, materials not specifically related to local history should be forwarded to the Dane County Historical Society, the Wisconsin Historical Society, or some other historical organization.
Principles Related to Accepting and Denying Donations
The Executive Committee of the Society (current officers) has the sole authority and responsibility for accepting, rejecting, and de-accessioning materials, the decisions to be made always with the Society’s mission in mind. Materials may be rejected if they are duplicates of materials already in the collection, reproductions, potentially environmentally invasive, dangerous, or are in very poor condition.
Unrestricted gifts or purchases are preferred. Any conditions or restrictions should be made in writing on the Deed of Gift or a similar document and signed by the donor and a Society representative. Donors must understand and recognize a certain level of risk whenever their loans or gifts are made to the Society. Normal precautions are taken to protect and safeguard all materials. However, it should be made clear that specifically-designed protection from possible fire damage, water damage, and burglaries are not currently in place at all sites.
The Society accepts items on loan for a limited time period, as long as it is clearly understood that these items may be used for purposes of research or display along with the Society’s regular collections. This arrangement should be described in a document signed by the loaning party and a representative of the Society.
The Society may lend selected items to trusted patrons for specific research and occasionally for exhibit and educational purposes. In all cases, this should be for a short, designated period of time. Generally materials on loan should not be handled without protective gloves and if displayed must be presented in a manner that adheres to accepted general archival principles regarding temperature, humidity, and natural light. For all materials loaned, a Society form, “Record of Materials Loaned,” must be filled out completely and signed by the borrowing party and a Society director and kept on file in the archival center office.
The Society has no obligation to display donations at any or all times at any of the sites. Exhibits in the library gallery are rotated on a regular basis to include materials from the collection. No original or primary documents should be displayed in any setting in which their condition is compromised. Whenever possible, copies should be made. New donations which will complement any of the displays at the various sites may be added at any time. Because of the character and ages of the Society buildings and their defined spaces, the Society reserves the right to limit its acquisition of certain artifacts in quantity and nature to a representative sampling.
Some farm and industrial machinery, vehicles, and related artifacts are not within the Society’s current storage or exhibit capabilities.
The Society may dispose of items no longer relevant or supportive of the mission by donating them to other historical societies and libraries, selling them, or discarding them. When this takes place, however, any identifying names and addresses on items must be removed. If materials are sold, all funds generated must be used for purposes that further enhance the quality of the collection. When accessioned materials are removed from the collection, they must be de-accessioned by action from the Executive Committee and so defined in the records.
Procedures and Responsibilities for Accessioning and Filing Materials
Donations are tax deductible under Section 501c(3) of the U. S. Internal Revenue Code. Donors are responsible for arranging and paying for any appraisals they may wish for their donated materials. Society members and volunteers are not authorized or expected to ever provide any appraisal information.
All items accepted as donations for the archival collection must be accessioned and catalogued and donors acknowledged. All donors must sign a Deed of Gift form, which legally transfers the property as an unrestricted gift to the DeForest Area Historical Society “to use, retain, or dispose of as deemed necessary.”
Accessioning information on many items in the collection is currently available in paper form in binders at the library archival site organized in four categories: (1) Library Materials; (2) Paper Manuscripts & Documents; (3) Photographs; and (4) Artifacts. Documented acquisitions are identified with an accession number, a subject classification (for location and filing purposes), description, and the name and address of the donor. Records are kept of the donors and signed Deeds of Gifts in separate binders. At the present time, only a portion of the artifacts stored at the four sites have been numbered and accessioned. This is an on-going process.
Most photographs, manuscripts, documents, and small artifacts stored at the library are filed in order by subject. Subject categories are defined on posters mounted in all rooms. Large artifacts are either displayed at the home museum sites in the context of the setting or at the depot, where they are organized by subject and protected with dust covers.
Materials Considered Especially Important for the Collection
The DeForest Area Historical Society is dedicated to enlarging and enhancing its collection of materials which will contribute to a better understanding of local history. To this end, it especially encourages the donation of artifacts, photographs, and paper documents related to these subject areas:
- Businesses, churches, families, schools
- Significant events and celebrations held in the community
- Ethnic traditions and customs
- Locally-manufactured or created items
- Homes and home furnishings
- Tools and equipment made or used locally
- Products of local artisans and artists
- Personal materials (clothing, accessories
In addition, the Society collects and preserves some selected printed materials, manuscripts, pictorial records, and audio-visual materials related to area local history:
- Environmental records, surveys, and maps
- Public records (schools, townships, and village)
- Church records (excluding personal or private information)
- Business records
- Family and individual records
- Records of the DeForest Area Historical Society (financial reports, meeting minutes, etc., 1975 through the present)
Adopted by the Executive Board of the DeForest Area Historical Society on April 15, 2010.
(Adapted from the Ripon Historical Society.)