This week, big news for research geeks like us: The Wisconsin Historical Society has finished renovating a gorgeous new reading room at its historic headquarters (map) on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. We’ll be among the many stopping by to bask in that calm, air-conditioned space.

But today Executive Director Andy Hall and I took a field trip to a less-feted section that may be an even greater help to investigative journalists and other diggers. It’s the low-ceilinged, dim, homely cave of wonders where the Wisconsin Historical Society compiles archives of a few hundred Wisconsin newspapers, and of newsletters from all over North America.

Where newsletters go not to die. Kate Golden/

Ron Larson, a staffer there (and soon-to-be blogger for, says the newspapers are all eventually transferred to microfilm, not digital formats, because microfilm is still considered a more reliable archiving medium. But there’s a huge backlog of papers to film — which means that some of this material is available only on paper.

It’s a story trove, and a good reminder (especially for those of us who have digitized our lives) that not everything is on the Internet.

Kate Golden

Kate Golden, multimedia director and reporter, specializes in environmental stories and data visualizations.