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Class Notes Profiles

History’s detective

By Nicole Sweeney Etter

Dr. John N. Vogel, Grad ’89, is part historian, part detective. But instead of investigating people and events of days long gone, Dr. John Vogel focuses on the world around him — its landmark buildings, bridges and other architectural or engineering artifacts.

Vogel is president and senior historian at Heritage Research, a historical/environmental consulting firm in Menomonee Falls, Wis. He got his start after earning his master’s degree in 1979, when he helped a professor research an old logging dam in the Chequamegon National Forest for the USDA Forest Service. “I discovered what a treat it was to deal with history in the real world and its landscapes,” Vogel says.

He came to Marquette to earn his doctorate in history and then launched his own historical consulting firm.

Engineering firms are one of his biggest clients. “When a new road is being built, they have to consider not only the natural resources being affected but the cultural resources,” he says. That might mean hunting for a new home for a historic bridge, for example. When the circa-1920s Milwaukee County General Hospital was torn down, Vogel’s firm helped prepare an exhibit of architectural artifacts now on display at Froedtert Hospital. He also advises developers interested in renovating old buildings, and documents landmarks for the National Park Service’s Historic American Building Survey and Historic American Engineering Record.

For Vogel, respect for history involves striking the right balance. “You can’t save everything,” he says. “Our challenge as historians today is to help society strike that balance between the need to preserve and that need to progress.” 


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