Milwaukee Public Museum
Press Release

MPM Aligning Itself for the Future

Museum Leadership has been investigating whether to construct a new museum building downtown.

By - Mar 7th, 2017 03:32 pm
Milwaukee Public Museum. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee Public Museum. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee, Wis. – The Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) announced today that it is undertaking a staffing restructure to strengthen the financial position of the Museum and prepare it for changes ahead.

The changes President and CEO Dennis Kois announced today will position MPM for the challenges of the decades ahead and safeguard the Museum for generations of Milwaukeeans to come. MPM will be reducing its staff by 15 positions, while also creating several new positions that are aligned with advancing its scientific mission. Overall the staffing changes will reduce MPM’s expenses by more than 1 million dollars, or 8%.

Kois noted:

In order to secure MPM’s future, we must ensure we are fiscally sustainable in the here and now. That is particularly important given that our endowment is very small relative to other museums our size. While MPM has been having great success recently—with attendance, revenue, membership and fundraising all up from 2014 to present—we must ensure we have the resources needed to invest in our future.

The success Kois reference is evidenced by the fact that since 2014, MPM has increased:

  • Overall attendance by 33%
  • Planetarium/theater attendance by 101%
  • Admissions revenue by 38%
  • Membership revenue by 21%
  • Retail revenue by 41%
  • Unrestricted fundraising by 13%

Despite that success, however, the Museum needs to align its staffing and expenses for future needs. Kois stated that the restructuring will impact positions ranging from senior management to front line staff. As part of the restructuring the Museum will be adding several new positions in areas such as collections digitization, collections and research, and digital media design over the coming year.

For 2017, MPM’s operating budget is 14.2 million dollars and the Museum currently has 141 staff (prior to these reductions). Between 2014 and 2016 total expenses at MPM have grown from $13.65 million to $14.27 million, or 4.5%.  In 2016, salaries and benefits made up 57% of the Museum’s expenses.

MPM has acknowledged publicly that leadership has been investigating whether to construct a new museum building downtown to replace the failing, 60 year old County-owned building MPM currently occupies. That evaluation has been underway for the past two years and has involved Gallagher & Associates, a museum consultancy in Washington, DC, along with extensive community input.

Kois, who joined the Museum in 2014, noted that as part of maintaining fiscal discipline at MPM he and the Museum’s Vice Presidents have voluntarily taken a pay cut.

About the Milwaukee Public Museum (
The Milwaukee Public Museum is a natural and human history museum located in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The museum was chartered in 1882 and opened to the public in 1884. MPM has three floors of exhibits that encompass life-size dioramas, walk-through villages, world cultures, dinosaurs, a rain forest and a live butterfly garden, as well as the Daniel M. Soref National Geographic Theater and Planetarium. The museum houses more than 4 million objects and hosts nearly half a million visitors each year.

The MPM is operated by Milwaukee Public Museum, Inc., a private, non-profit company, and its facilities and collections are held in trust and supported by Milwaukee County for the benefit of the public.

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3 thoughts on “MPM Aligning Itself for the Future”

  1. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Museum needs it’s displays upgraded but where is 100 million coming??/

  2. AFSCME 526 says:

    On Tuesday, Milwaukee Public Museum management announced plans to cut $1 million dollars from employee’s wages through layoffs and reduced hours. Fourteen union employees will be affected including the gutting of the world-renowned exhibits staff that made MPM’s acclaimed exhibits.

    MPM management referred to the $1 million cut as a “staffing restructure” in a Journal Sentinel article published Tuesday afternoon. This is not a “restructure” at all, it is a $1 million cut at the expense of MPM workers. To call this devastating cut anything less than a hatchet job is insulting to the people who have dedicated their lives to MPM’s mission.

    “MPM management is asking for millions in taxpayer money to build a fancy new building, while cutting the staff that makes MPM a special, clean, and safe gathering space for our community,” said Jaclyn Kelly, president of AFSCME Local 526. “Milwaukee will expect the same world-class museum exhibits and services. The loss of the people that do that highly skilled work will decrease MPM’s ability to provide the same educational and family experiences they’ve had for generations.”

    MPM claims cutting staff will help them solve problems like poor collections care that puts their accreditation at risk. In fact, chronic understaffing has already posed a significant threat to collections care. In 2005 MPM cut about 40% of the staff, after which the Milwaukee Public Museum was never the same. Now MPM is taking steps to further decrease MPM’s staffing levels. MPM’s highly specialized custodial, maintenance and security staffs protect collections from elements that can lead to their deterioration, such as temperature and humidity, leaks, and weather events. Cutting their positions puts the collections at more, not less, risk.

    MPM has an ongoing practice of displacing union workers with outside contractors and AFSCME Local 526 has reason to believe this so-called “restructuring” in an excuse to further the use of non-union labor. In addition to using non-union labor, MPM’s plan for a new facility is contingent on cutting the staff who can best continue MPM’s standard of world-class exhibits in the next facility. AFSCME Local 526 believes these devastating cuts will hurt the museum’s ability to provide the world-class experience southeastern Wisconsin has grown accustomed to.

    MPM has shown little regard for its represented staff and their well-organized and effective union, AFSCME Local 526. Some MPM staff first learned of the layoffs after reading about it in the news on Tuesday afternoon; another slap in the face. Recently, MPM management has shown disdain toward its union employees by retaliating against union leaders and outsourcing union work to outside contractors. MPM management told the union that laid-off positions will not be outsourced, but private non-union contractors are already doing bargaining unit work at MPM. A recent grievance filed by the union against this practice resulted in back pay for lost work after MPM hired a private contractor to do union work. It is no coincidence that four members of the union executive board for AFSCME Local 526 will be affected by these cuts.

    Local 526 calls upon the Milwaukee Public Museum and Milwaukee County to maintain the jobs of people personally and professionally committed to providing outstanding public service, education, research, and programs in a safe, clean, child- and family-friendly environment. Don’t lay off the people who make it happen.”

    The union has planned a picket for Wednesday, March 8th at 5:00 p.m. at MPM.

  3. AG says:

    Since we live in a throw away society… why not?

    I wish this gave us the initial cost estimates like JSonline did. Very enlightening that we can’t update a 60 year old building…

    And let’s remember that the endowment is “smaller than similar sized museums” because of the mismanagement of the MPM by the management staff and the county. How many more county treasures are we going to tear down due to poor management and lack of maintenance? Is the county tax bill not high enough already?

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