Date of Award

August 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Information Studies

First Advisor

Donald Force

Committee Members

Iris Xie, Nadine Kozak, Amanda Seligman


This dissertation presents a history of the Bay View Historical Society (BVHS), a non-profit cultural heritage institution located in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since its creation in 1979, the BVHS has assumed numerous roles related to preservation, documentation, education, information provision, social interaction, and public appreciation around the neighborhood’s history. This study’s overarching purpose is to examine how a modern local historical society assumes and approaches its role within the community it seeks to document, preserve, celebrate, and enrich. The central contention is that such institutions are given life when a range of conditions are conducive for the streams of historical consciousness within a community to converge with the structures and instruments of the historical enterprise. The analysis and narrative tracks internal and external developments that influenced the BVHS’s creation and growth over four decades (1979-2015), focusing on its primary activities, goals, and pursuits, and how it communicated its self-assigned or assumed roles. During this time, the BVHS assumed a position of authority on the neighborhood’s history by emphasizing both physical symbols and historical storytelling that inspired its membership and engaged the wider community.