Graham Kilmer
MKE County

State Funding Vital to Milwaukee Public Museum Accreditation

$40 million in state funding will help museum meet goals laid out by accreditation commission

By - Jun 21st, 2021 09:15 pm
Milwaukee Public Museum Reef Rendering. Rendering Luci Creative

Milwaukee Public Museum Reef Rendering. Rendering Luci Creative

The $40 million included in the state biennial budget for the Milwaukee Public Museum‘s new facility is critical to the museum’s accreditation, according to organization president and CEO Ellen Censky.

In February, a commission from The Alliance of American Museums voted to table the museum’s re-accreditation because the museum’s current building is in such poor condition it poses a threat to the safety of the collections held there.

About six months before the museum’s re-accreditation was tabled, it announced plans to build a new, 230,000-square-foot facility at the northeast corner of W. McKinley Ave. and N. 6th St. The project will cost approximately $240 million.

Governor Tony Evers included $40 million for the museum in his biennial budget proposal, and it was one of the few major proposals that survived the changes made by the Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee.

Censky told the Milwaukee County Board’s Parks, Energy and Environment Committee on June 15th that securing public funding for the new facility was critical to the museum’s capital campaign for the new facility. This was one of the objectives highlighted by the accreditation commission.

She said the public funding will show the museum is making “significant progress” toward the objectives necessary for re-accreditation.

The museum’s future site is directly linked to its accreditation. The current building has millions in deferred maintenance. The museum has been reduced to relying on buckets to catch water falling through its leaking roof during rainstorms.

Also key to securing re-accreditation, Censky told the committee, is developing a “bridge plan” for securing the collections that are most at risk. In July, the museum will present that plan to the board. That effort is likely to cost $100,000, according to a report from the museum.

If the plan for collections is approved, and with public funding potentially in hand, the museum may be able to show the significant progress required by the commission by the deadline in February 2022.

Meanwhile, like many institutions that rely on in-person revenue, the museum is coming out of the pandemic struggling to return to pre-pandemic attendance levels.

Censky told the committee that current museum attendance is at about 35% to 40% of a normal year’s level. Though, she said, this is roughly what the museum was projecting.

As of the end of March, the museum had approximately $197,000 in attendance revenue since the start of the fiscal year in October. Attendance revenue from October 2019 through March 2020 was $962,000.

The museum received approximately $2.3 million from the federal government through two rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program. Censky told the committee this money was largely used “for shoring up our staffing.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the museum lost its accreditation. While the museum’s re-accreditation is tabled, it has not lost its accreditation. The article also incorrectly stated that the “bridge plan” would cost $100 million, it will cost $100,000.

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One thought on “MKE County: State Funding Vital to Milwaukee Public Museum Accreditation”

  1. Douglas Johnson says:

    Remarkable, that the Republican dominated Finance Committee approved $40 million dollars for the Milwaukee Public Museum. MPM is NOT just a City of Milwaukee or County of Milwaukee institution. It has had a statewide audience along with people from other US states and other countries. Congratulations to those Republicans who put their issues aside and supported the museum. Disclosure: yes, I volunteer at MPM.

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