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After 53 years, the Milwaukee Public Museum has begun the search for a new home. (PHOTO: Bobby Tanzilo)

Plans for new location in the works for Milwaukee Public Museum

After 53 years in its current location on Wells Street, the Milwaukee Public Museum is planning to find a new home.

As first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the museum – the largest in the state of Wisconsin – is eyeing a new Downtown location at the conclusion of a two-year study that looked at the costs and effects of two possible options: either moving to a new spot or renovating its current county-owned home at 800 W. Wells St.

"All those conversations have been happening over the last year, and we realized that it would be financially and sustainability-wise the best decision to consider moving," Hillary Olson, vice president of audience and community engagement at the Milwaukee Public Museum, told OnMilwaukee.

The Journal Sentinel report adds that, in addition to the cost, the need to move all of the MPM's 4.5 million artifacts out of its current building's basement to a more protected space, as well as updating its overall storage systems, with an impending 2020 review for accreditation with the American Association of Museums contributed to the decision to move rather than renovate.

According to Olson, there is no official price tag for the MPM's new home, but the cost is expected to be "nine figures," with more details to come out in the upcoming year or so. The museum, Olson said, also hasn't begun the search for any particular real estate locations or noting the specifics of what it would be looking for in a new location. However, the Journal Sentinel notes that the dome and planetarium will be included in the future building plans, while Olson expects the whole moving process to take "anywhere between 10 and 12 years."

"This kind of a move, with all of the county's collections and the artifacts and the objects in the exhibits, takes years and years – and it also takes years to plan, which is why we're just in those initial planning and thinking phases," Olson noted.

In the meantime, Olson said that the Milwaukee Public Museum will still maintain its current space, and the exhibits will still be there. But the process of looking elsewhere has begun.

"As those plans come out, we're definitely going to be communicating them," Olson said. "It is something that we're looking toward the future, and we're aligning our staff and resources for the future needs of the museum. Because this museum belongs to the county and it belongs to the people of Milwaukee. And all the artifacts in it and everything, we're taking the very best care of everything that we possibly can, and that's where we're moving forward toward."

Stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for any future updates about the Milwaukee Public Museum and its future new home.


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