Jim Draeger: My name is Jim Draeger, I’m the State Historic Preservation Officer at the State of Wisconsin. It’s my pleasure to welcome you all today here for our Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium. I think I’ll begin by just telling you a little bit of what our interest was and why we decided to reach out to the people organizing this symposium and lure them here to Madison far away from many major water ways.
Our interest in it was twofold, we like to support scholarship discovery and learning related to historic preservation. That’s a huge part of our mission. It’s something we take very seriously. But we also had an interest because it ties in with a larger goal of the Wisconsin Historical Society for the next few years. The Society has picked as a theme for programming within the Historical Society, we picked a theme of water for the next two years so we’re making a significant commitment to any kind of historical discovery, learning, sharing that relates to the history of water, and this seemed like a very natural fit to that theme.
I just wanted to give you a really quick description some of the things we’re doing. I think the most important initiative that we have going related to the history of water right now is we are partnering with the Milwaukee Water Council which is an organization that’s both public and private partnership that’s focused on trying to protect freshwater and find new technology, new applications for science to be able to protect freshwater sources across the United States.
We think it’s a very important initiative. It’s been recognized by the United Nations as one of the water centers in the world. We think it’s so important and so groundbreaking that we stationed an archivist in the Water Council offices, and her job is to help the Water Council be able to record and archive all the history of the various things that they’re doing so that there is a record left behind there.
We have also taken the initiative to revamp all of our outreach in the Historical Society, try to bind things together and to take individual, isolated things that we’re doing, pull them altogether and promote them jointly. During this next couple of years as water’s our theme, we will be publishing books, articles, we’ll be doing exhibitions and outreach related to the theme of water in Wisconsin. Think of this as our kickoff event for that.
Water is also a big part of Wisconsin because Wisconsin is a water state. It’s boarded on the east and the north by Lake Michigan and Lake Superior which is part of one of the largest freshwater systems in the world. It’s also boarded on the west by the St. Croix River and Mississippi River, so we’re really, literally, we’re defined by water. Water paid a very important role in the development of Wisconsin as it did in the nation itself. Wisconsin was a place that was known for industry, for brewing, for agriculture because of water, so water is something that’s really formative to our own identity here in Wisconsin. You can’t have beer and you can’t have cheese without water, I’m just going to say that right out front.
The other thing that created some interest in our part in participating in this was the recent announcement by President Obama that NOAA will evaluate an 875 square foot section of Lake Michigan between Port Washington and Two Rivers as a sight for a National Marine Sanctuary. We’re very excited about the prospect of that happening. As you’ll learn during our sessions here, Wisconsin is very, very active in underwater archeology and we have a really strong program there.