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Why the Milwaukee Public Museum hopes to find a new home

Milwaukee Public Museum
Milwaukee Public Museum

Since the 1960s, the Milwaukee Public Museum has been a fixture on the west side of downtown. But that could be about to change. The museum hopes to move to a new space that could better fit their needs and help avoid disaster, as the current building maintenance needs continue to pile up.

"The public museum is hoping to create a smaller but much more efficient building than it currently has," says Tom Daykin, a journalist who's been covering the Milwaukee Public Museum's proposal.

The new building would be around half the size of the current building, which is nearly half a million square feet, and would also house another Milwaukee institution: the Betty Brinn Children's Museum.

Relocating the Milwaukee Public Museum is expected to cost a total of $240 million, including creating the new building, moving artifacts, and shoring up the museum's endowment. The State of Wisconsin is providing $40 million, and the museum is hoping to get another $40 million from Milwaukee County.

"The importance of getting that county funding secured is to help the museum really launch its private fundraising campaign, the private campaign accounts for most of the money at 150 million dollars," says Daykin.

But the Milwaukee Public Museum isn't the only project in Milwaukee that needs money. The county is responsible for funding many cultural institutions including the Milwaukee Public Zoo, the Marcus Center, and the Mitchell Park Domes. The Domes are in need of some major, structural renovations, but Daykin believes rehoming the Milwaukee Public Museum is likely the highest priority.

>> Advocates urge Milwaukee County to restore the Mitchell Park Domes

While the cost is being sorted out still, many have concerns over which exhibits will move to the new museum and which ones won't, including favorites like the Streets of Old Milwaukee.

"I think we all recognize it's primarily been a natural history museum. Think of the dinosaurs and some of the other exhibits there. Still really, I don't think we know yet about the fate of some of those some of those exhibits, including the The Streets of Old Milwaukee, " says Daykin.

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
Tom Daykin has been covering commercial development at the Journal Sentinel since 1995.
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