UW-Madison shares knowledge
Superior newspapers of the 1920s carried much more than news. Between the folds were scattered local names, faces, businesses and events.
"It's about building a community," said Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen, a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
When a number of drownings took place in Lake Superior in 1920, the Evening Telegram in Superior partnered with the YMCA to offer swimming lessons to residents. Passersby could catch updates on World Series games outside the newspaper's office. They participated in the publication's dog derby, doll contest and annual movie parties, their smiles frozen in time on the pages.
"The cultural information of newspapers gets lost," Cieslik-Miskimen said. "Beyond information, they provide a sense of identity."
Cieslik-Miskimen has researched the history of newspapers in Superior for years. It's the subject of her doctoral dissertation, and it's brought her to the area many times. April 6, she presented her research to students at Superior High School through the UW-Madison's Speaker's Bureau.
The Speaker's Bureau sends experts off campus and throughout the state to share information and research at no cost.
"We're really working hard to live up to the Wisconsin Idea," said Marcus Cederstrom, community curator of Nordic-American Folklore, who was also tapped to speak at SHS. "Everything that happens at the UW we need to share."
Whether it's medical research, cultural studies or agricultural breakthroughs, he said, that knowledge must flow out and enrich the rest of the state.
Both Cederstrom and Mirva Johnson, a graduate student studying Finnish language and culture, have brought their knowledge to the Oulu Cultural and Heritage Center in Bayfield County. In addition to giving presentations, Johnson interviewed a number of Finnish-speaking residents.
"So far I've lined up a dozen from up here," said center board president Duane Lahti, and Johnson is set to come interview half a dozen more.
She taught Finnish to children and adults during the center's summer school program last year, and plans to return this year.
"It's very popular," Lahti said. "It's refreshing to hear my grandchildren speak a few words of Finnish. When I was a kid, we were all bilingual."
Under Johnson's direction last year, the students sung the Finnish national anthem for the opening of the center's newly restored Fairview School.
"It's valuable information for kids to have," Lahti said of UW-Madison's outreach. "It's important for them to know about history and where we're going. With school budgets the way they are, we need to take advantage of the opportunity."
SHS language arts teacher, Andy Wolfe, was impressed with the presentations Cieslik-Miskimen and Cederstrom gave, and hopes to bring them in earlier next school year. He learned about the Speaker's Bureau from his son, a student intern with the program.
Cieslik-Miskimen touched on both high school and community papers in Superior during the 1920s. She said she was drawn to the middle for her research.
"When you look at the history of the United States, people only talk about big cities and little towns," Cieslik-Miskimen told students. "Left out are towns like Superior ... a lot of people live in Green Bay, Wausau, the places in between. I wanted to shed a historic light on these places."
Superior caught her attention because it's history isn't dominated by the Packers and because it was far away from the influence of major urban areas.
Plus, Cieslik-Miskimen said, the community narrative was packed with "cool stuff," including the largest student strike in the nation's history, a diverse economy and a distinctive culture.
Cieslik-Miskimen is seeking additional information for her dissertation, which could someday be turned into a book — letters and behind-the scenes information on stories of the time, old copies of the Devil's Pi or East Hi Times from the 1920s, and information on Viola Wick, managing editor of the Central High School newspaper, and Frances Risdon, who became state editor for the Telegram.
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