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Photo: Jeff Miller

Students and faculty alike are often fooled by the statue at the top of Henry Mall. It’s not a statue of W.A. Henry, for whom the quadrangle was named, but of W.D. Hoard, known as the father of Wisconsin’s dairy industry. One might also assume that Stephen Babcock developed the butterfat test in Babcock Hall, but he developed the famous test in Hiram Smith Hall – the 127-year old former home of the first dairy school in the country, now home to the Department of Life Sciences Communication.

Where can one go for this information without paging through dusty books or searching countless historical websites? Three walking tours exploring the history of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) are now available on the PocketSights smartphone app and PocketSights.com.

“I didn’t realize until I dug into it. I always thought it [the statue on Henry Mall] was Henry. It’s not him at all,” says Ron Schuler with a laugh, co-chair of the CALS History Work Group.

Schuler, an emeritus professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering (BSE), developed the virtual tours. Viewed on a smartphone, tourists are accompanied by an interactive map and historical information as they explore portions of campus on foot. Alternatively, the tours can also be viewed from the comfort of home or anywhere in the world.

The walking tours were originally a pamphlet edited by the late Ellen Maurer, a former CALS External Relations employee, life sciences communication instructor, and history work group member. The pamphlet was set out for people to take at various locations like the Babcock Hall Dairy Store and Agricultural Hall. Schuler decided to modernize the pamphlet by taking advantage of the internet, smartphones, and GPS.

“History needs to be modernized to be accessible, it doesn’t do anybody any good if it’s not accessible,” says Schuler. With PocketSites, the work group can also receive analytics data on how often the tours are used.

The CALS Campus (East) tour showcases the historic and modern buildings east of Babcock Drive. It starts tourists at majestic Agricultural Hall, takes them on a stroll down Henry Mall, and then returns them to Linden Drive to see the Microbial Sciences Building and its neighboring structures. It ends at the Agricultural Bulletin Building, now home to the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS).

The CALS Campus (West) tour begins at the former Agricultural Dean’s House and Allen Centennial Garden. Tourists then head towards Steenbock Memorial Library and down Linden Drive, even allowing for a stop at the Babcock Hall Dairy Store for ice cream. The Stock Pavilion, Animal Sciences Building, and Dairy Barn are among the buildings seen before the final stop at the Walnut Street Greenhouses.

A third tour, solely of Historic Henry Mall District, is also available.

As the campus continues to evolve through various construction projects, PocketSites gives the group the ability to quickly make no-cost updates to information about the CALS campus neighborhood. Schuler thinks that the addition and remodel to the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant and the Center for Dairy Research, and the Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery Building are primary examples.

CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch appointed CALS History Work Group in 2014 as part of the college’s 125th anniversary. Comprised of a team of emeritus faculty and staff, as well as a few current CALS employees, the group was established to collect, preserve, catalog, and share materials and information that tell the story of the college’s rich legacy – one of discovery and outreach that has influenced the world.

“I’ve always had an interest in history,” says Schuler, who joined the group in 2016. “My favorite thing about the work group is learning about history – historical facts – but it’s always intriguing to find out unusual things that aren’t always on the surface.”

He has converted thousands of his late professors’ research materials (prints and slides of mechanical cherry harvesting) to digital images for the University Archives. His focus has been on the history of BSE and he’s even found a dynamite blasting machine from CALS’ stump-blasting research in the 1920s.

Today, Schuler is working on preserving materials from Farm Technology Days, which he’s worked at for 30 of the agricultural trade-show’s 64 years of operation. He has written a history of the event located on their website. He also teaches part of a history seminar at UW, helps at the historical Schumacher Farm Park, and serves on a team which runs an agricultural summer camp for kids.