Brian Jacobson

Scenes from the pm@mpm

By - Mar 3rd, 2012 08:42 am

All photos by Benjamin Wick for ThirdCoast Digest.

It is 8 p.m. on a Friday evening in Milwaukee.  A heavy snow has fallen, and the streets of the present-day are cold and soaked. Inside the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Streets of Old Milwaukee are warm and dry.  Near the Kuhm General Store, just past the Pfister Hotel and Usinger’s store, there is a DJ sonically soaking the eardrums with dance music.  It’s just like you remember going to the museum, only with cocktails and beer.

It’s the first “adults only” event between Newaukee, a social networking venture that introduces young professionals to the city they live in, and the MPM—who may be looking to get in on the action that the art museum sees with its MAM After Dark series. It certainly is a bold effort and the museum has a different vibe to it at night.

While the main hub for the evening was certainly the beloved turn-of-the-century look at Cream City, other areas of the main floor were open as well, including the signature dinosaur exhibit and the Rain Forest section. Some favorite attractions like the candy store and the rattlesnake button (at the buffalo hunt display) were sadly off-limits, but at least the howler monkey button was pushed often and the lines for liquor soon extended across the usually quiet Pabst Square.

We took plenty of photos and took copious notes from the shindig:

8:05 p.m. Guests are finally allowed up the glowing main stairs underneath the airborne skeleton of a humpback whale. Sampson does not look amused, but everyone is headed away from the big gorilla anyway.

8:15 p.m. There is a scavenger hunt on, and groups start grilling the volunteer citizens of Old Milwaukee for information. “Oh no dear, I died in 1932,” says one actress, committing to the role.  There are many cameras and smartphone cameras going off; nostalgia for going on a trip through the museum is strong.  Many are overheard to say they have not been in here for years. The display granny on the front porch continues to rock back and forth, not quite in time to beat of DJ Romke Beats.

8:33 p.m.  The line for the Living Photo Booth is starting to amass, as everyone wants to get their photo taken with giant twirling mustaches and a pipe.  The line for booze is still reasonable at this point, and soon the scent of beer and wine fills the air.  The snacks at the Khlokyle Catering are disappearing fast. Somewhere in the Polish house, a cat frozen in time will never get that ball of string.

8:42 p.m. A young man struggles to hold his beer and fish for pocket change so as to press a penny into a keepsake memory. People try to open the door to the butterfly exhibit, even though it is clearly dark and the butterflies are sleeping. Nearby, the creaky video from the back of the research scientist’s jeep proselytizes to no one in particular.

8:46 p.m. The coat racks are now filled with black, blue, and gray peacoats. It is starting to become difficult to navigate the cobblestone streets. I take a swig of grape soda from the Sprecher taste-testing table, hoping to raise my blood sugar. The first sets of couples are now exploring the Precambrian displays. Despite many cubby holes and carpeted wall corners to make out in, things remain disappointingly genial and clean.

9:13 p.m. It is decided — the best place to canoodle is the underwater display showing squids on a tropical reef near Southeastern Wisconsin… approximately 410 million years ago when we were near the equator.  The rotating gel filters from an overhead light makes everything dreamy and blue. The worst place to canoodle?  In front of the Muskrat Habitat.

9:40 p.m.  It’s beginning to feel like a night at Water Street, lines for alcohol now extending through the Scandinavian sections. Somewhere in the Hell Creek area of Montana, a T-Rex growls. Benches and stools meant for watching educational videos become VIP lounges for deeper conversations.

10:15 p.m. The hubbub of excited voices has subsided and given way to quieter discourses. The nickelodeon is showing fuzzy old photos of bygone Milwaukee. Wistful faces stare at the mannequin bartender in the Schlitz tavern, thinking of what else the night might hold.  Random change noisily whizzes around the ‘black hole’ donation display.

10:28 p.m. Outside, the world is an unhappy sno-cone. Inside, the world is frozen yet inviting.

We took plenty of scene pictures, courtesy TCD photography intern Benjamin Wick. Check out our slideshow below or view the set on our flickr account.  To find out more about Newaukee and the pm@mpm program, follow this link to their homepage.

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