A few Novel Museums in Wisconsin

It seems the well is running dry, at least when it comes to blog topics.  Today, I’ll send the bucket down with the hopes of retrieving a pail full of interesting museums.  I’m not thinking of your typical public museums, but interesting ones that you wouldn’t find anywhere else but Wisconsin.  I’ve scrolled through the archives and hopefully, for the time being, quenched my thirst for another interesting post.


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As I hoist the bucket towards the top, I find as curious place as any.  It’s not really a museum, but it is.  I researched the exact definition of Museum, that is to say I asked Siri for her take.  This is what she came up with….

A building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic or cultural significance are stored and exhibited.

So, even though my first draw is not publicly funded, being a successful private venture, It’s first rate and worth a spot on the list.

This place, known as ‘The house on the Rock’, is crammed full of weird and zany collections.  Visitor beware:  some of its collections are purely reproductions, although its main attractions certainly are not.  This includes a house constructed of limestone atop a large boulder, a triangular room suspended over treetops(it is not supported by any structure underneath its floor) and the largest collection of coin operated amusements in the world.

Some attractions are weird, some are fantastic, and others are, how would you say, well I guess, kind of creepy.

‘The House on the Rock’: It’s a Bit Different


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On my second draw, if you didn’t care for the flavor of the first, I find a stark contrast in taste.  It pays homage to a specific date in Wisconsin history, October 8, 1871.  It is, to this day, the most disastrous day in the annals of the state.  The devastation caused in Northeast Wisconsin that day has never been replicated in any other portion of the country.

A blaze, known as the Peshtigo fire, raged through virgin forests and upstart communities. Its death toll is actually unknown.  Still,  the lowest estimates surpass any other count rendered by fire in the United States.  Despite these unpleasantly gripping facts,  this blaze is relatively unknown, being eclipsed by the Great Chicago Fire, which took place on the same date.

In Peshtigo, the largest community affected by the inferno, an old Catholic church turned museum, houses artifacts from the fire.  Granted, there’s only a handful of surviving relics in this museum.  However, those that remain are compelling and thought provoking.

Besides the commemoration of the fire, many other donations from the local community give this place a unique appeal.  It’s supposed to give a feel of life from that period of time.  I felt as if I was transported to one of my grandparents old storage sheds, delighting in the old artifacts of bygone eras.

The Peshtigo Fire Museum

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On the third pull, I find a bucket endowed with a bit of immigrant flavor.   This is a living museum, the largest in the state.  There are other living museums I enjoy that reside in Wisconsin.  However, by its sheer size, Old World Wisconsin hints at what a day of leisure might have been in the homestead days-if one was so inclined to seek out their neighbors.

It is set on six hundred acres and includes entire farms, a small collection of churches, a coach house, general store and much more.  At its center, a spread out small town is there to explore.  Scattered on the countryside are German, Norwegian, Finnish and Danish farms, not to mention a small polish cabin.

You can hike wooded trails from one farm to another, or , if you’re not physically able to hike, take a motorized tram from destination to destination.

There were things to learn, homemade beer to savor, and even animals that were very much the breeds of the time.

Old World Wisconsin-little house in the park.


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As I get to the bottom of the well, the water becomes cooler in an industrial manner.  One very iconic brand has made its mark in the US, being the definition of cool in American pop culture.   A museum that highlights this century old manufacturer resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I’m talking of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and its cathedral of history – the Harley-Davidson Museum.  There’s everything one, who is a bike enthusiast, or enthusiast of the brand, could imagine housed in this very chic building.  From early motorsports to a collection of artistic gas tanks, this will electrify those wanting to delve into the history of the motorbike.

When I left, I was simply jolted with a high that I rarely get while checking out a museum.

The Harley-Davidson Museum-Industry and pop culture.

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Although the well is nearly dry, I find the best water at its very bottom.  The choice of my final selection brings the traveling circus back to life.  And hey, what says family fun more than an outing at the circus.

What impressed me most about this museum was how it illustrated the traveling Circus’ significance in history.  When I was young, my grandparents had always urged my parents to take us to the circus.  I can only imagine what it would have been like for depression era children, experiencing so many exotic sights in a city of tents. Hence, I think our grandparents wanted us to experience the same thrill.  Yet, I was a child of the eighties not the thirties.  So in ways, the circus has lost some of its luster.

That being said, Circus World is still fun for kids.  Heck a circus is still entertaining for an adult.  The living museum includes actual big top circus shows, including live circus animals during summer months.  It also houses the largest collection of circus wagons in the world,  many being a combination of superior craftsmanship and ingenious artistry.

Circus World: What the Circus Once Was

Honorable Mention

I’ll just throw a small little mention of the Museum of Wisconsin Art.  While there are plenty of art Museums scattered across the US, only one features artists with ties to the Badger State.   The Museum is located in West Bend, Wisconsin.

There you have it, these are my favorite exclusively Wisconsin museums.  Of course the list is purely derived from my own tastes.  And I haven’t visited every Museum in the state.  However, of the ones I have, these are definitely worth a shot.  Each one, except maybe the House on the Rock, lends a little insight into America’s Dairyland.  The stories they tell cause me to wonder, what tales will our current residents leave behind.  With the history unfolding in this uncertain time, I hope its one of bravery, diligence and resolve.

Many Safe Travels to Come!








4 responses to “A few Novel Museums in Wisconsin”

  1. If you like reading mysteries you may enjoy the Chloe Ellefson mysteries by Kathleen Ernst. Her main character works at Old World Wisconsin and many of the books are set there. The author also used to work there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this, shining a light on some lesser know “museums”. I have been to all these places and really like what they showcase individually. Sometimes if you have a chance in some of the small towns they have a historical society or museum of locally important things. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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