The Working Lives Project is catalyzing and enriching discussion about work across Wisconsin. Through public events, radio programs, exhibits, and online resources, the project promotes reflection and action about what work means for each of us, and for all of us together.



We believe that face-to-face conversation changes lives. The Working Lives Project is catalyzing and enriching community discussions with ShopTalk events across Wisconsin.

ShopTalk is a catalog of more than 40 presenters who offer human stories and address pressing questions for the working people of our state. Book an event for FREE today!

Jim on FB Love WI

Have we got a story for you!

Jim Leary is a native of Rice Lake who has been nominated for a Grammy for his exploration of the music and cultures of the state. Jim says, “These days my heart is in writing and ethnography, but I will always be a laborer.” As part of our ShopTalk, Jim brings some of his stories and music to audiences all over the state in a presentation called “What Folksongs Tell Us About Work in Wisconsin.”

We are proud to have partnered with Love Wisconsin to bring you a story told by Jim.  Love Wisconsin shares positive, inspiring stories of everyday Wisconsinites on Facebook. Together we use online tools to get to know the many faces and voices and perspectives that make up our state.

Here’s an excerpt from Jim’s story! Read More


Studs Terkel & Great Stories from Working People

The Studs Terkel Radio Archive is now available online, thanks to in part to a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Louis “Studs” Terkel (May 16, 1912 – October 31, 2008) was an American Pulitzer Prize-winning author, historian, and broadcaster. He is best remembered for his work collecting the personal stories of thousands of working Americans, and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago, where he interviewed people and got them talking about their jobs and lives.

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Listen to WI Life Radio Essays about Work


A migrant dairy worker, an ER nurse, a trapper, a guitar maker, a mechanic, a pro angler, an arborist, and the foreman for the state’s tallest building.  These Working Lives radio stories from our partners at Wisconsin Public Radio are a treat to listen to. Get to know some of your fellow Wisconsinites and the work they do.

Who has leisure time?

To most of us in the Modern era, leisure time is understood as a break from work. We tend to identify more with our ‘productive’ side and place a higher value on our work identity than we do on the time spent off the clock. But according to the 20th century German philosopher Josef Pieper, leisure time is deeply meaningful and may even define us more than we realize.

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~ from an essay by Mike Perry written for the Working Lives Project.


Burn-Out: Is it a modern crisis?

Physical fatigue and emotional exhaustion is a natural part of being human. But can the cultural perception of burn-out have a history? According to author and researcher Anna Katharina Schaffner, it does.

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Road Trip!

“Asylum: Out of the Shadows” is a museum exhibit that makes an important contribution to the national conversation about modern mental health care. Go to the History Museum at the Castle in Appleton to learn about the history of the Outagamie County Asylum, the practice of using the ‘free’ labor of patients, and what it was like to work on the staff at the asylum. Visit now! The exhibit will be on display until June 3, 2018. 

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The End of the Line poster

Upcoming Event!

The WHC is proud to co-sponsor Professor Kathryn Marie Dudley’s book presentation “The End of the Line: Lost Jobs, New Lives in Postindustrial America,” on Friday, June 22 at 5 PM – 8 PM, at the Kenosha Creative SpaceRead More

In the News: Teachers

Kudos to our ShopTalk presenter Jon Shelton, who was recently quoted in a LA Times article on teacher strikes in Oklahoma.  

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Let’s get some perspective. 

Some predictions paint a bleak dystopian picture of a future defined by global mass unemployment due to automation. Others suggest innovation will lead to  economic progress and prosperity, a future where robots and computer algorithms free people from unsafe, unhealthy, or tedious work. Let’s break it down…

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Play Ball!

2018 is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGBPL).  The author of “Joyce Westerman: Baseball Hero,” Bob Kann, is traveling the state to tell the story of the inspiring Kenosha native. Remember the 1992 movie, “A League of their Own?” There are free public events in libraries, senior centers, and theaters around the state, all funded with a Working Lives Project grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. 

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