Posts Tagged ‘Working Lives’

Why do we work? and other questions for working people

Our Working Lives Project, Voices from the Field | October 12, 2017 | By:

Work clock

By Alison Staudinger

Why do you work?

How can a daily activity like work be both the worst and the best of life? Perhaps it is in part because humans have come to expect meaning from their work, in addition to material or social benefits. To understand this development, the humanities offer a unique lens. They offer records of the everyday and methods to study them.

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Free Labor: Working & Living at an Asylum

Humanities Programs in Focus, Voices from the Field | May 4, 2017 | By:


Emily Rock is curator at the History Museum at the Castle in Appleton, where she manages the artifact collection, coordinates educational programs, and curates exhibits. She is passionate about community building and works to make history come alive with creative approaches to storytelling.

Asylum: Out of the Shadows, open through May 20th at The History Museum at the Castle, is the result of Emily’s and others’ effort tell the story of the Outagamie County Asylum. With this exhibition, the museum ambitiously sought ‘truth and reconciliation’ for past abuses and aimed to personalize the stories of the residents and employees.  We are proud to be a funder of this community exploration as part of our Working Lives Project.
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Report Back: The Black Workers Forum

Our Working Lives Project | April 28, 2016 | By:

Collage of poster and murals at the Madison Labor Temple.

A collection of murals and signs on view at the Madison Labor Temple during the Black Workers Forum. Photos by Faron Levesque.

Work is something we all do, like sleeping and eating, in our own way. Work can be very personal, but none of us works in a vacuum. Life is work, and work connects to everything else.

This week, Faron Levesque, a PhD candidate in the History Department at UW-Madison, gives us her thoughts on the subject. She specializes in social movements and the cultural history of gender. As such, she sees the connection between work and current social movements that address inequities in housing, debt, education, incarceration, healthcare….and more. Read More

Health, Work, and Healthy Work: Human Factors Engineering

Our Working Lives Project, Voices from the Field | October 21, 2015 | By:

Basic needs
Katherine Sanders
 is a human factors engineer. She specializes in sociotechnical systems, essentially what makes work meaningful and healthy for people. She explains, “It’s a small, specialized field that most folks, even other engineers, have never heard of.” We met Katherine as part of our Working Lives Project. She runs workshops and consults in workplaces to help organizations and individuals learn how work either supports health or leads people toward illness.  Ergonomics is part of her background, the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. But instead of designing physical work places or products, she focuses on the psychological and social aspects of work, and the impacts work has on personal health.  She is passionate about what she does: “I care about how the work gets done and its quality, and I care just as much about the health and well-being of the people doing the work.”

In this essay, Katherine gives us a glimpse into her world, what motivates her, and her Top 5 list for creating work systems that promote health and meaning, as well as productivity and efficiency.  Read More

Building a Lebel Skiff

Humanities Programs in Focus, Our Working Lives Project | July 29, 2015 | By:

[F]ishermen and boats were integrated together, for good and for ill. Boats were humane tools for fisherman. They were work partners; highly esteemed, sometimes loathed, but always talked about. Tremendous care, thought, and craftsmanship went into these small boats.”

 –Tim Chochrane, A Good Boat Speaks for Itself


The Bayfield Maritime Museum is an all-volunteer organization in a town of 488 people. The mission of the museum is to preserve, interpret, and present artifacts that portray the dynamic nautical history of Bayfield and the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior.  If you go to the museum this summer as one of the 432,000 visitors who flock north on Highway 13, you may find a pop-up tent on S. 1st Street along the waterfront.  Inside you’ll find volunteers and visitors alike invited to drill a hole, spile a line, or plane a board smooth.

Starting last summer, crowds have been gathering under the tent for boat building lessons and demonstrations. People are encouraged to engage with the builders, who have both a professional and historic understanding of fishing and boats on the Big Lake. 

The boat under construction has been named the Cubby Lebel Skiff. Read More

Afterthoughts: It made me think

Voices from the Field | July 22, 2015 | By:


‘Caught in the Wind’ by Bobbette Rose is part of an exhibition on display now through the end of August at the Overture Center in Madison.

Bobbette Rose makes a living as a graphic designer, web designer, poet and artist. We first met her when we were looking for a design consultant for our Working Lives Project. Her insight and thoughtfulness impressed us from the get-go. Not only did she embrace the nuances of the subject matter, she looked at the whole project in a unique way.

Bobbette makes creative connections naturally. That is how she makes her life. So I wasn’t surprised when she called to tell me that a workshop called Yahara 2070, planned by scientists to help people in Madison talk and think about the future, connected in her mind to our Working Lives Project.

We’re sharing Bobbette’s response to the Yahara 2070 program as a powerful reminder to those of us who plan public programs:  what participants take away can have an impact that even we as organizers might not have imagined. Read More

Working Lives: Teaching and Learning from Stories

Voices from the Field | July 15, 2015 | By:

from Alison re Oral History

Alison Staudinger is interested in how we understand and value our work. Based on her research, she sees that societal and personal values about work shape how individuals feel about what kind of power they have in daily life, and the world. She is working on a book about  how the 18th Amendment, which made it illegal to consume, produce or sell alcohol, was in part an attempt to give women more equal power in household economies. For her research, she depends on sources, like oral histories, that shed light on the lives of less powerful players in history, such as women. She says, “Democratic theory asks us to reconsider power, especially the power to have one’s voice heard. If democracy requires many empowered voices, then [we] should work on projects like oral histories that look for more voices. We should also work with students and other non-experts to advance the communal production of knowledge and memory.”

Staudinger teaches for Democracy and Justice Studies, an interdisciplinary program at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay that is devoted to exploring the history and future of social change and justice. She specializes in democratic theory, but also teaches law, gender, and political science courses.

WorkingLives-100pxWe are happy to announce that Alison Staudinger will be available for speaking engagements as part of “Shop Talk: Conversations About Work in Wisconsin” starting this fall. Using our Shop Talk catalog and online application, groups such as libraries and historical societies can host Staudinger (and others!) as part of our Working Lives Project.  Staudinger will be offering a number of different talks, including one that discusses her classroom project, “Life’s Work,” detailed below.

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As I was growing up, I learned about the railroads from my Grandpa Staudinger’s stories. From my Grandpa Schalppi, I learned about dairy farming.  I know that railroad union brothers are like family and that you come home from the yard covered in dust.  I know that dairy farmers get up very early and, long before the research proved it, that cows prefer to be called by name.

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