Souvenirs of Service: The Things They Kept

30 W. Mifflin St
Madison, WI 53703

Collecting souvenirs of an event, place, person, or other reminder is an ancient human habit. Veterans are no different and have over the years brought home many reminders of their time in service.


Wisconsin servicemembers have been collecting souvenirs since the Civil War. Learn the stories of the things they kept in this new exhibit.


The items, collected from the Civil War era to modern-day, range from artillery shells to Zippo with each is presented along with its captivating backstory. For example, you will find a WWI radio operator from Racine brought home a treasured handmade mandolin, crafted for him by a local French woman and designed with the insignia of his division, the famed 32nd Red Arrow Division; an Eau Claire native who served in World War II sent his wife the nylon parachute with instructions to make it into an evening gown for herself - she did and it is stunning; a WWII fighter pilot from Janesville credits his never being shot down during his 67 combat missions to a good luck doll a woman gave him while they sheltered during an air raid on London. He kept that doll in his sock drawer until he donated it to the Museum in 2007. These are just three of many fascinating items and stories the exhibit showcases.