It feels, in this day and age, that one needs an alluring subject, or focus, to create an interesting place. There are tons of museums these days, a broad typical ‘public museum’ seems like an unwise investment of time. There are natural observatories, museums on science and industry, railroad museums, airplane museums and everything else under the sun.
If I may, I’m going to disagree with my opening sentiment. I mean, where else can a child, or a grown man for that matter, go to find dinosaur fossils and a live butterfly room under the same roof? Believe it or not, there is a venue inside of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Public Museum. This is only the second museum I’ve blogged about labeled as a public museum. Both are very different, yet, somewhat the same.
This museum stands out because, of course, attention is paid to the local history, covered in an exhibit where replicated business fronts give you that home town main street feel. Mainly, the museum does fall in line with what one expects from a big city museum, and a little more. They may not be world class exhibits, but really, the artifacts under this roof, along with replicas, provides a learning environment for all that explore its halls.
I walk into a very commercial entrance where, beside the ticket counter, resides a coffee shop, with an enormous gift shop just down the way. Also, tucked away in a couple of corners, a planetarium and a magnificent wooly mammoth skeleton start the museum experience off right.
We purchase our tickets and ascend a flight of steps. The first things to greet us are skeletons, featuring everything from a humpback whale, suspended overhead, to a flesh eating dinosaur. Already, I’m delighted, and have not even begun to explore the contents of this first level.
Front and center, as I gaze beyond the stairs I have climbed, lies prizes of the museum that have been here for quite awhile. The museum, itself, is a historical institution, being chartered in 1882 and open to the public in 1884-that’s 134 years of public service. It may not be that impressive when set against a world stage, but considering this is Wisconsin, and immigrants were still flowing into the state at the time, its a marvelous thought.
We meander through the exhibits on this floor. Really, the amount of artifacts and replicated scenes, on this first of three floors, is enough to satisfy anyone. Like I have mentioned, there’s an old town Milwaukee exhibit and also one focused on old world Europe. We find a Dinosaur exhibit, where there might not be a ton of fossils. Yet, the ones that are there, including a giant T-rex skull, are enough to thrill any young boy, including myself.
I just mentioned boys being thrilled. What about the ladies and girls? In a glass chamber on this same level, much like a green house, flutter hundreds of butterflies. Every color of the spectrum is represented across the many different species’ wings. If you’re lucky, one might find your body a suitable resting place, creating the perfect photo opportunity. My companion is so enthralled with the exhibit that we return after experiencing the rest of the Museum.
There is an array of learning opportunities on this level, from creepy crawlies to geological specimens and everything in between. I have a hard time grasping the suggestion that earth’s land was once one supercontinent, (Pangea) that is said to have existed millions of years ago. That is only one feature of the abundant topics on this floor. The exhibits, of both the past and present, concerning the life and the earth that sustains it reign supreme. The first floor, itself, was worth the price of admission.
We leave the natural exhibits of earth behind and survey the second floor. Here Native Americans are highlighted, from sports they played to buffalo they hunted. There are placards explaining the Indians plight from the invaders coming from the east.
The Wisconsin woodland Indians are featured here, so are replicated buildings of homes constructed by native Americans. Here, besides the focus on Native Americans lie the special exhibits. We didn’t purchase the tickets and I’m glad we didn’t. By the time we’re done with this floor, my mind is overloaded with exhibits and information.
However, we continue to the third and final floor. It is here that all of the world’s history is found. From Egypt and Jerusalem to Muslim and Asian. I find decorative pieces and some that are flat out creepy. Take, for instance, the canopic jars used for Egyptian burial, containing the organs of the deceased.
There are also weapons and shields here. I find a cool room on Japan’s samurai warriors, complete with swords dating back thousands of years. Other wartime hardware from different civilizations can be found on this floor.
Far removed from that are other Interesting bits. There is a replica of a Middle Eastern market place. Also, Pre-Columbian artifacts, that spurn the imagination, live within these walls. Tombs, pottery and more interest me as I’m imagining the many different worlds that called the earth home.
There is also an oceanic display, complete with sea turtles and sharks, only models of course. I sweat in a small circular room, near the exhibit, to experience shell life of the ocean. When I’m finished with the final floor, I’m both exhausted and elated. That was fun!
The layout of the museum is somewhat confusing. You really have to backtrack and explore every twist and turn to make sure you don’t miss something. Yet, their presentation is amazing. It took a lot of work to make this place interesting and demonstrative in so many ways. I applaud their efforts.
Ticket prices- $18 for adult $12 for children(5-13) $14 for seniors and active military.