Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wisconsin Digital Archives Collection Connection : Using DNR Master Plans for Research

170+ master plans published by the WI Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) were added to the Wisconsin Digital Archives recently. These master plans provide historical, environmental, recreational, geological and geographical information about state parks and trails, recreation areas and state forests throughout Wisconsin. Master plans provide consistent, long-term management guidance for state-owned, publicly accessible lands.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources logo
Courtesy of the WI DNR

DNR master plans don't necessarily sound like something on the top of anyone's reading list outside of very specialized professions however Nancy Mulhern, Government Information Librarian at the Wisconsin Historical Society, shared some unique ways DNR master plans are being used to answer a variety of reference questions. People doing both genealogical research and students working on research papers often times get directed to master plans to answer their questions.  

Nancy observed that in the past few years, there has been a growing interest in looking at locations in Wisconsin from a historical perspective. People researching a location for their genealogical research want to know what areas of Wisconsin looked like 20, 50 or even 100 years ago to provide context. Master plans are ideal for providing this context because they describe in detail the physical land features of the area, what types of trees and plants grow, wildlife living on the land along with current and planned roads, buildings and recreation areas. Master plans also include detailed maps.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a class called The Making of the American Landscape  brings together history, environmental studies, and geography. This class is extremely popular with over 200 students enrolling each year. The class requires a paper about how a place or part of the environment has changed. Master plans provide both historical and current information and maps detailing the changes the land has undergone. 

The Wisconsin Digital Archives makes accessing the DNR master plans easy.  A quick link tab to all plans in the collection is conveniently located on the homepage of the Wisconsin Digital Archives along the top. The DNR master plans are full-text searchable. More master plans will continue to be added to the Wisconsin Digital Archives as they become available.

For more information about how master plans are developed, visit the DNR website.

Post written by:
Abby Swanton, Resources for Libraries and Lifelong Learning