Trip down memory lane

Brenda Echeverria, Arts & Rec Editor

There are very few times when Old Main is mentioned on campus. For many students, their only time hearing its mention is during a campus tour. However, 47 years ago Old Main was at the heart of campus life at UW-Whitewater before it went up in flames in 1970.

To recognize Whitewater’s rich and slightly forgotten campus history, the idea for Old Main Lane Permanent Historical Display began in 2015. It began as a Liberal Education & America’s Promise (LEAP), project and as a potential idea to go along with UW-Whitewater’s upcoming sesquicentennial celebration in 2018, the theme of which will be “150 Years: Inspire. Engage. Transform.”

“Since 2015 when we narrowed it down to just one hallway, it has been a long process of research and a long process of looking at our 150 years and figuring out how to fit that into 876 sq. feet” said UC Arts Manager and Old Main Lane organizer Chloe Rettinger.  

Old Main Lane, which is located on the second floor of the University Center, used to only be a dark, plain, and gray carpeted hallway. Now it is in the process of becoming a transformative space for people to learn all about Whitewater’s history.

The majority of the work done on the hallway started last fall. There were added display cases, new track lighting, new carpet and there’s even a touch screen TV that has Whitewater history trivia games.

A unique attention to detail can be seen through its new additions.

“The new flooring is supposed to look like wooden sidewalks because Whitewater originally only had wooden sidewalks.” said Rettinger about the new striped carpet.

Currently the hallway hosts temporary art galleries. Along with the art displays the hallway has mockups that show what future displays might look like.

Old Main Lane will include a LEAP spotlight, timeline, a looking forward section that will utilize the campus’ 2017-2022 strategic plan, campus achievements, history of university housing and artifacts, among many other more current subjects.  

“My degree is from Whitewater in Public History, so I’m getting to do what I love. It’s fun to learn things along the way and discover things you didn’t know and feel connected to things”, said Rettinger. “That’s something that’s really important about this display. It’s bringing a connection between current students, past alumni, and faculty and a sense of community that we don’t have in that way yet. We’re all about traditions here, but not everyone knows all of them.”

She has been working with special collections which are UW-Whitewater’s archives, meeting with alumni and doing oral histories and interviews as part of her research.  They are also taking in artifact donations.

For their future artifact display, an interesting piece they have is a UW-W marching band uniform from the 1960s.

“It was the only one that survived the old main fire in 1970 because the student didn’t turn it in, so we are thankful for their negligence that one time,” said Rettinger with a huge smile.

They recently had an intake of collections during Homecoming and will be installing a few items into the permanent display during winter break.

“The process has been rewarding, but challenging. Part of it is balancing and telling the story of our past and the other part is how we leave room for looking forward as a campus”, said UC Assistant Director Kim Adams.

Adams who has also been at the head of the project for two years is always busy talking with different boards, doing training sessions and presentations for the hallway that is still in part a vision.  

“Sometimes it’s like putting together an actual physical puzzle, but putting it together on the backside, so you are looking at how the shapes fit together. Then you turn it over and see this amazing, beautiful picture in the end. That’s kind of what the process has been like for me” said Adams.

Adams has seen the project get a lot of positive feedback and is proud to see others develop a passion for the hallway. Both Adams and Rettinger are honored to work with past alumni and to see their willingness to donate their artifacts to the hallway because they trust the vision of the project.

Adams is hopeful that the finished display will have many different uses.

“We hope that the hallway can be utilized by new student seminar instructors for their classes. It could be used for training for campus assistance. It could be used for RA training, Hawk Squad training, Warhawk ambassador training, or some sort of orientation for new faculty and staff. There’s any number of possibilities, I think, the hallways can be used for” said Adams

People can look forward to a few new additions after winter break. They are hoping to have most of it completed by the kickoff of sesquicentennial on April 21, 2018 through founder’s day in 2019.

“For now we are always looking for students, faculty, and staff that are excited and want to help in any capacity” said Rettinger who is also always excited to hear stories from past alumni.

For more information Kim Adams can be reached by email at [email protected], and Chloe Rettinger can be reached at [email protected]