‘History on the Go’

UWL senior Rebekah Bain, who also works in Special Collections in UWL’s Murphy Library, developed a love for history at an early age. Now she is sharing that with those who ride La Crosse MTU. “I love history because everything that is happening today reflects what happened in the past,” she says. “I like learning about history and applying it to today.”

UWL senior brings La Crosse history trivia to city bus riders

UWL senior Rebekah Bain is sharing her love of public history with La Crosse MTU riders.

Bain, who regularly rides the city bus from campus to downtown for groceries and errands, noticed that people on the bus are typically looking at cell phones or gazing out the window — when they could be learning about history.

This gave the senior the idea to put trivia about the city’s transportation history inside all of La Crosse’s 20 city buses. She created the project “History on the Go” in her Introduction to Public and Policy History course with Associate Professor Jennifer Trost in fall semester 2016. Bain’s original idea was to put pamphlets including history inside the buses. However, with help from Trost, they decided a poster on the inside front of the bus would draw more attention.

Trivia facts dating back to early years of transit in the area were placed in city buses starting Friday, Sept. 8. After riders read the trivia question, they can scan their phone over a QR code on the poster to find the answer.

“I think this will help people understand where we’ve been as a system and how we got started,” says Jim Krueger, Jr., interim transit manager for La Crosse MTU.

It will also help the city’s bus system gauge customer satisfaction, Krueger adds. The MTU collaborated with Bain to connect the online trivia answers to a satisfaction survey related to the city bus system. Bain thought the trivia would increase participation in the survey. Online hits and responses will also help her understand the success of the project.

Bain, a public and policy history major, distributed 10 different trivia facts among the buses. She wrote them all after doing research in Special Collections in UWL’s Murphy Library.

While the project will help communicate history and help the Municipal Transit Utility improve service, it will also help Bain. She hopes to continue on to graduate school after graduation and eventually become an archivist.

“I hope to go into public history which is reaching people about history and educating them outside of a traditional classroom setting,” she says. “And that is what this project accomplishes.”

Try out some transportation trivia

Question: Traveling by stagecoach from La Crosse to Sparta took 12 hours in the 1850s. How long did it take to travel to St. Paul, Minnesota, by stagecoach?

Answer: 3 ½ days