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'Massive project': Milwaukee Public Museum will move 4 million pieces into new museum

The new Milwaukee Public Museum will feature windows that showcase exhibits to passersby.
Ennead Architects
The new Milwaukee Public Museum will feature windows that showcase exhibits to passersby.

The Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) is getting a new home and new and reimagined exhibits. Plans and designs have slowly been unveiled, and we now know more about the five exhibition galleries for the future museum.

They are called: Time Travel, Wisconsin Journey, Milwaukee Revealed, Living in a Dynamic World, and Rainforest, which includes a rooftop terrace and a butterfly greenhouse.

MPM President and CEO Ellen Censky explains what guests will find familiar and what they’ll discover for the first time when the new museum opens by early 2027.

"So, what we want to do is create an experience where when you walk in, you feel there's familiarity, but it's new and exciting too," says Censky. One of the ways that the museum will create this new but familiar space is by focusing on some of the items that are mainstays of the current museum, such as the dinosaur skeleton and butterfly exhibit. A new and bigger candy shop will also be included in the new space as well.

In contrast to the current museum facility, the new structure will allow exhibits to be switched more easily. This will provide museum guests to see different featured pieces as they return. One of the pieces that will be featured in the new space is a recently acquired half-billion-year-old sandstone slab with tracks on it from the first creatures to walk out of the water and onto land.

A common concern for many modern museum designs is overusing technology to where screens become the focus instead of the exhibit. Censky explains, "I love that our exhibit designers have said that technology for them is really magic. So it's creating the experiences ... and it's using the screens in a way that they melt into the background and become the background as opposed to being a screen."

Censky emphasizes there is still much work to do before the new museum opens. Much of the new space is still in the planning phases, and the construction of the new space won't start for several more months. But, once the structure is completed, four million pieces will need to be carefully moved into the space.

"There are people [who] hear that we're moving and they think it's happening tomorrow and so they want to come in for their one last visit and we tell them that they can have many one last visits ... So, we still have a long way to go," says Censky.


Eddie is a WUWM news reporter.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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