"Ach ya! : the story of German music in Wisconsin" collection

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  • "The 'Ach Ya!: The Story of German Music in Wisconsin' Collection presents historical images from the nineteenth through the late twentieth century that evoke the long-standing heritage and rich diversity of Wisconsin's German musical traditions, especially in German-American communities in Calumet, Dodge, Marathon, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Sheboygan counties. Created for the 1984-1986 German-American Music Project, the images feature buildings and landscapes, musicians in customary contexts of musical performance, home, and community life (such as dance halls, festivals, weddings), as well as musical instruments, recordings, songbooks, musical scores, and symbols of German heritage and German-American identity. The collection balances original photography in these communities in the 1980s by Project photographer Lewis Koch and folklorist James P. Leary, with Koch's copy photography of historical photographs made available by musicians, families, community and historical organizations, and especially the Watertown Historical Society and Wisconsin Historical Society. Project field researchers, Philip Martin (Project director), James P. Leary, and Philip Bohlman, also provided material represented in copy work. Altogether, the 205 digital images represent a selection of over 1,300 slides that contribute to the 'German-American Music Project Collection,' chiefly housed at the University of Wisconsin's Mills Music Library (Collection Guide accessible through The selection made up the 30-minute 'Ach Ya!: The Story of German Music in Wisconsin' slide program that featured a synchronized recorded narrative explaining the Project's field research process and interweaving music and interview clips from field recordings. The original slide-tape program toured 10 community sites in 1986, following the completion of field research, the 1985 production of the two-disc LP recording, Ach Ya!: Traditional German-American Music from Wisconsin (see, and a 1985 two-hour Wisconsin Public Radio Simply Folk program that featured artists Ruth Flaker of Wausau, Albert Kolberg from the Sheboygan area, Elfrieda Haese and Heidi Schlei of Colgate, and Irving DeWitz of Hustisford. The German-American Music Project was a cooperative effort between the Wisconsin Folklife Center, then based at Folklore Village in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, and the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Funding was awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kohler Foundation, Stackner Family Foundation, the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Wisconsin Humanities Committee, M&I Banks, and the H.J. Hagge Foundation. Additional funding to the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures from the National Endowment for the Arts has permitted preparation of the original slides and metadata for digitization by University of Wisconsin Digital Collections' able crew. Julia Wong served as chief metadatist, while Janet C. Gilmore coordinated organization of materials, fact checking, editing, and proofreading, with the help of former Project workers James P. Leary and Lewis Koch. We thank Jeanette Casey of Mills Music Library and Melissa McLimans, Catherine Phan, and UWDC staff for their stewardship of this collection."


  • Website began in 2015.
  • Digitized and made available by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries Digital Collections.
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