Collections from Wisconsin National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in Wisconsin. We invite you to explore museum collections from Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore includes seven light stations with a total of nine lighthouses, constructed between 1856 and 1915. Architecturally and historically significant, they also contained a technological marvel of the 19th century, the Fresnel lens. Designed by the French physicist, Augustin Fresnel, the lens is a series of prisms that bend and magnify the central light source, producing a beam of light that can be seen for miles.

Most of the original Fresnel lenses are lost, but there are two in the park's museum collection, the Devils Island Lens and this one from Michigan Island. This 3 ½ order Fresnel lens was installed in the Michigan Island Lighthouse in 1869. When a second, taller tower was erected at the station, in 1929, the lens was moved to the new tower. In 1972 the Coast Guard removed the lens, replacing it with a molded plastic fixture, and transferred it to the National Park Service. It is on display at the Bayfield Visitor Center.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, APIS 1

The logging era (1837-1914) impacted the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers, and yet ultimately aided in their preservation. Workers came, trees were cut, and towns grew. Rivers were changed to allow boats and logs to ply the waters. Cold water, slippery logs, and long days made log driving dangerous work. Calked boots helped the log driver remain standing on floating logs. The logging era’s end slowed development in the valley and changed how people viewed the rivers. Tourists who had previously come to see log jams returned to relax on and along the now quiet waterways. This boot sole was found by canoeists on a sandbar in the Namekagon River in 2001. Did the owner drown or did he throw his worn boot away?

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, SACN 7072

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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