Wisconsin Historical Museum fundraising for a $120 million rebuild

Published: Mar. 28, 2018 at 10:09 AM CDT
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For nearly two decades the Wisconsin Historical Society has hoped to rebuild its museum. Recently, the society learned its hope, may become reality.

Wisconsin’s State Department of Administration sent the society a letter of support for $70 million. The Society is now fundraising $50 million to build a new museum totaling $120 million.

The Society said the project would use neighboring buildings to more than double the size on the museum. It would change from a four-story building, to a two-story building with taller ceilings and underground parking.

The museum, which is located at the top of State Street, was built in 1986. It went through an expansion in the 1990’s adding the third and fourth floors. The museum’s director says the facility is once again running out of room, for both items, and spectators.

“Right now [the museum] sells out and we have to send school groups away,” said Christian Overland, the Ruth and Hartley Barker Director for the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Overland said the museum’s current condition has failing technology and facility maintenance issues. Several items are sitting in storage because the museum isn’t equip to protect historical items from damage.

“In our facility where we keep all the collections it’s perfect climate control. Temperature and humidity…Inside the [museum] there lights that can harm [items]. In the future building it will be state of the art technology to we can showcase [items] to the public and the world,” said Overland.

Overland said Governors Thompson, Doyle and Walker have all supported the plan for a new museum.

The Society has the contacted Gallagher and Associates to help with initial designs. According to the company’s website it’s internationally recognized for museum planning. The website lists dozens of projects including the National Archives Museum in Washington D.C. and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California.

“They’re coming to start the project next week,” said Overland.

If all goes to plan, the Society hopes to have the new museum up and running by the year 2023. Questions about the project, and fundraising can be directed to museum@wisconsinhistory.org.