Vernon County Museum Notes | News
Kristen Parrott, curator
A Protest!” The exhibit is currently being installed at the museum, briefly covering a number of protest movements that have occurred in Vernon County over the past 150 years. The exhibit is organized around two main manifestations, one from the end of the 19th century and the other from the end of the 20th century.It also affects other protest movements, but to a lesser extent.
The main manifestation of the 19th century is the temperance movement, a subject we have already covered here in this column. The word temperance means “moderation” and in this context it means moderation in the consumption of alcohol or, more generally, complete abstinence.
Vernon County was home to chapters of several temperance societies, including the Independent Order of Good Templars and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Temperance organizations were established in Vernon County communities with large populations of Yankee and Norwegian settlers, such as De Soto, Esofea, Readstown, Viola, Viroqua, and Westby. The National Temperance Movement succeeded in passing the 18th Amendment, which instituted the ban, but the amendment was repealed after 14 years.
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The main 20th century protest movement featured in the exhibition is the protest against low-level military flying, another topic that has already been explored here. During the winter of 1995, a regional organization called “Citizens United Against Low Flying” was formed in Viroqua to combat a new Air National Guard plan.
The plan was to establish two new military training flight corridors over southwestern Wisconsin, which would involve thousands of flights per year at altitudes as low as 300 feet passing over parts of the Vernon and Crawford counties. Citizens United mounted a successful campaign to stop the plan.
One thing I find particularly interesting about these two protest movements is that they used the arts extensively in their campaigns. The Protest!” The exhibit includes music from the temperance campaign, in the form of hymns and songbooks, including “The Temperance Songster” and “New Anti-Saloon Songs: A Collection of Temperance and Moral Reform Songs”. A recording of temperance music plays in the background as visitors stand near the exhibit, featuring gems such as “A Sober Spouse For Me” and “Close Up the Booze Shop”.
The protest against low-level military flying also involved art, and the museum is fortunate to have several pieces in its collection. Richland County artist Ken Stark created two campaign cartoons, which are on display. And Westby artist Amos Miller created a painting and woodcuts of residents protesting outside the Wisconsin State Capitol. He also made a beautiful papier-mâché model of a fighter plane and mounted it on a safety helmet – all of these works of art are also in the exhibition.
You can view all of our exhibits during the museum’s regular winter hours, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from noon to 4 p.m., or by appointment. To make an appointment, call us at 608-637-7396.