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Volume 8, Number 5: February 20, 2002

Portal Wisconsin: Culture, Humanities,
Arts, and History on One Convenient Website

by Tammy Kempfert, TTT Editor


There's a new place to go to appreciate and discuss Wisconsin culture--online at

Screen shot of portalwisconsin.orgLaunched last month, Portal Wisconsin serves as a vast resource for information on the culture, arts, humanities, and history of the state. The non-profit site includes a searchable events calendar, a virtual art gallery, streaming media tours of historic locations, and online chats with regional arts and humanities experts. For example, visitors can search Portal Wisconsin's comprehensive calendar by location, date, and interest area to learn about cultural events occurring throughout the state. The site's digital media page offers opportunities to view exhibits, hear interviews, see demonstrations, and take panoramic tours of places like Baraboo's Circus World Museum. And Ellen Kort, Wisconsin's poet laureate, will host the first of a regular series of chats.

According to Project Director Ann Engelman, facilitating relationships between the state's citizens and its arts and humanities agencies is a major goal for Portal Wisconsin. "The beauty of all of this," she says, "is that everybody becomes more acquainted. It's a great opportunity for agencies to have free visibility on a website where all of this cultural information comes together in one place."

Portal Wisconsin was created by Wisconsin's Cultural Coalition, a body of seven state organizations that originally teamed up to guide the state sesquicentennial commission in organizing the 150th statehood celebration. These organizations--Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters; Wisconsin Arts Board; Wisconsin Historical Society; Wisconsin Humanities Council; Wisconsin Public Radio; Wisconsin Public Television; and University of Wisconsin Extension-Continuing Education--continue to act as project partners. The partners, together with the small Portal Wisconsin staff, developed and launched the site in less than a year.

Agencies interested in posting content to Portal Wisconsin are asked to contact the partner organization that best suits their mission. As soon as a partner authorizes an agency's involvement, the agency will receive a password, allowing its staff to enter and update information on its own. "We have a customer service sort of goal, so this all happens fairly quickly--usually within 24 hours," says Engelman.

screen shot of portal wisconsin's interest areas pageJennifer Smith, Portal Wisconsin's Project Assistant, says that since its launch, the site has continued to publish new content daily, with over 1300 items in the calendar as of late January. Also pending is the expansion of the site's online gallery. The gallery currently displays the works of past Wisconsin Arts Board fellows, along with the artists' statements and links to personal websites. This spring, Portal Wisconsin will issue a general call to all state artists interested in posting to the online gallery. According to Smith, what sets the Portal Wisconsin gallery apart from other galleries is space. ""We are limited only by server space, not the physical space of a museum or gallery. We've got as much room as there is available work," she says. Future additions will go beyond visual arts to include sound clips of Wisconsin musicians, excerpts of scholarly works, and more.

Implemented by Wisconsin Public Television and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Portal Wisconsin serves as an example for public television stations throughout the nation. "Wisconsin Public Television has always been known to break ground," says Project Manager and WPTV veteran Nella Citino. Besides modelling a successful collaborative venture, "Other stations are looking to us to test different models and experiment with technologies," Citino says. Currently, the Portal team are figuring out how to implement innovations such as data casting.

Later this month, Engelman will represent the Portal Wisconsin team at a national interactive summit for public radio and television stations, where she plans to stress the success of the partnership. Meanwhile, Portal staff will continue hosting focus groups and watching the site's Web statistics in order to determine its most valuable features, both to its partners and to its users.

If you are affiliated with any University of Wisconsin institution and you wish to post a campus resource to Portal Wisconsin, please contact Amy Pikalek, University Relations Specialist, UW-Extension, 608-262-6660.

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