The WCFTR works closely with the Wisconsin Historical Society in carrying out its mission. The WHS is both a state agency and a private membership organization. Founded in 1846, two years before statehood, and chartered in 1853, it is the oldest American historical society to receive continuous public funding. By statute, it is charged with collecting, advancing, and disseminating knowledge of Wisconsin and of the trans-Allegheny West. The Library–Archives division supports the mission of the Wisconsin Historical Society by acquiring, preserving, and providing access to an immense collection of published and unpublished material documenting the history of North America, second only to the Library of Congress. The Archives provide access to collections of unpublished materials about the history of Wisconsin and a wide array of topics related to North American history. These collections include letters, diaries, organization records, state and local government records, photographs, films, oral histories and many other kinds of unique materials documenting American history.
The Mass Communications History Collections were established in 1955 to document the importance of the mass media in 20th-century American life. The collections include the papers of hundreds of important individuals, corporations and professional organizations in the fields of journalism, broadcasting, advertising and public relations. These collections document mass communications on both the national level and in the state of Wisconsin. Our holdings include the records and papers of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC); Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications; Foote, Cone & Belding; Bruce Barton; John W. Hill; National Educational Television; David Brinkley; Charles Collingwood; Joseph Harsch; H.V. Kaltenborn; Clark Mollenhoff; Howard K. Smith; more than 30 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists; and many other individuals and organizations.
In 1960 the WHS cooperated with the Department of Communication Arts (at that time, the Department of Speech and Theater) to form the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. The WCFTR's job was to identify significant potential donors of collections that would enhance and support the research and teaching tasks of the department, as well as providing a rich historical resource for generations of students and scholars. The WHS provides not only storage space for the collections, and offices for the Center's archivists, but also access to the collections through the Archives Reading Room on the 4th floor of the historic Wisconsin Historical Society building, located on beautiful Library Mall. WHS archivists and cataloguers assist the Center in processing and cataloguing its manuscripts collections, and in many other important tasks related to their joint project.