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"Societate Crescit Lumen" Historic Photo Exhibition

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"Societate Crescit Lumen" is the official motto of the Wisconsin Union and translates to "light is increased by human relationships".  It is physically embedded into locations in both Union buildings and is philosophically woven into the fabric of the organization.  

In his 1904 inaugural address, UW President Charles Van Hise called for the construction of a union building to provide for "the communal life of instructors and students in work, in play, and in social relations."  On October 5, 1928, the Memorial Union opened and was dedicated to the men and women of the University who served in our country's wars. At the opening ceremony, President Frank stated, "The Union is a living room, which converts the University from a house of learning into a home of learning." 

Since those rallying moments, the Wisconsin Union has provided experiences for a lifetime by building community, linking people together and providing a venue for all to gather.  The images selected for this exhibition come from an extensive collection that stretches back nearly ninety years.  Narrowing down nine decades of shared experiences to a selection of approximately fifty images was a daunting yet thoroughly captivating curatorial task for us.

What we found was an amazing array of captured moments ranging from serious to slapstick, academic to social, formal to casual, and all of the intersections in between.  At the heart of this exhibition are candid snapshots of social education--where students, faculty, staff, and community members meet, interact, and learn from each other outside of the classroom.  Indeed, this is the Wisconsin Union’s motto--Societate Crescit Lumen—in action.

This exhibition was co-curated by Lily Miller, WUD Art Summer Coordinator, and Robin Schmoldt, Art Advisor and Art Collection Manager.  We are grateful to Wisconsin Union Marketing and the University Archives for access to the images used in this exhibition. 

Historic photos of the Wisconsin Union are archived at the University Archives among its collection of over 2 million images documenting the history of the University.  https://www.library.wisc.edu/archives/
Many images have been digitized and are available at the UW-Madison Collection online via UW Digital Collections.  https://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/UW.UWMadison

Image courtesy of the UW-Madison Archives, #2017s01431

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