Graham Kilmer

Construction of New Museum Scheduled for Summer

Milwaukee Public Museum progressing on private fundraising needed to begin construction.

By - Mar 12th, 2024 01:27 pm
Rendering of new museum viewed from the west side of N. 6th St. Rendering by Kahler Slater.

Rendering of new museum viewed from the west side of N. 6th St. Rendering by Kahler Slater.

The Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) is getting closer to the fundraising it needs to begin construction on a new $240 million museum.

The museum has raised approximately $80 million in private donations toward the project, Ellen Censky, MPM president and CEO said Tuesday. Construction will begin when the museum secures at least $100 million in private donations.

“A formal groundbreaking ceremony will take place in May with major construction beginning in summer,” Censky told supervisors on the Milwaukee County Board’s Committee on Parks and Culture.

For the past several years MPM has been planning and fundraising for a new 200,000-square-foot museum, which will be built at the northeast corner of N. 6th Street and W. McKinley Avenue. It will replace the existing museum at 800 W. Wells St., which has been in poor structural condition for years, endangering the museum’s collections.

In February a three-foot crack opened in a water pipe running through the first-floor and damaged a Works Progress Administration painting, Censky told supervisors. MPM plans to lease an off-site facility to store some of the collections once the museum moves to the new building. The museum is looking for a facility now, Censky said.

The fundraising news indicates the museum has raised approximately $15 million in recent months from private donors. In total, the MPM is attempting to raise $150 million from private donors over a five year period that began in 2022.

So this is phenomenal progress that demonstrates the donor communities passion for this project,” Censky said.

Milwaukee County pledged $45 million and the state $40 million. Taken together, $165 million has been raised for the project thus far.

Currently, $200 million is budgeted for construction; $20 million for the packing, moving and storage of the 4 million items in the museum’s collections, which has already gotten underway; and $20 million will be set aside for a endowment to provide the institution with long term funding.

MPM and its project consultants are in the final stage of designing the new museum. In December, demolition finished at the 2.4-acre construction site.

The museum regularly catalogues items that come from Native American tribes and nations, and has been working to repatriate some of the items in its collections. As the final exhibits are designed, Censky told supervisors that MPM staff have been meeting with tribes “to discuss specific objects for display and the stories associated with those objects. In addition, the museum continues to reach out to source communities from around the world.”

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