Step Back in Time to When the Public Museum and Central Library Were Roommates

May. 18, 2017
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The library and public museum sharing space on Wisconsin Avenue.

On Saturday, May 20, the Milwaukee Public Library will host “When the Milwaukee Public Museum was at the Central Library,” a presentation on the seven decades that the public museum and library were housed in the same building. The program will be hosted by librarians Dan Lee and will feature photographs of the old museum and reveal how the library uses the former spaces of the museum today. A tour of the library by librarian Maria Burke will be offered after the program and will visit many former museum spaces, including some that are no longer open to the public. The program runs from 2–4 p.m. and will be held in the Centennial Hall Loos Room.

The program is part of an on-going series of presentations on the library’s historic Wisconsin Avenue central branch. The Renaissance Revival-style building was dedicated in 1898 as a home for both the library and museum. In 1962, when the present-day home of the museum was completed, the several-year process of transitioning between the two buildings began. The library continued to house museum exhibits until 1967. “Many still remember when the Museum was here and [will] enjoy a bit of a stroll down memory lane,” librarian and event co-organizer Maria Burke told Around MKE.

Burke added that there are still visible remnants of the museum in the library building. The former “Chinese Room,” built with WPA funding in 1938, was used to display the museum’s collection of Asian artifacts and remains somewhat intact. Stripped of its collections in 1966, the original display cases and tile mosaics can still be seen today. The room is located off of the Media Room on the first floor. The fourth floor of the building, an area now used for storage, is the former museum space that remains most unchanged. Museum room numbers and department names still adorn some of the doors here, showing where the museum director, taxidermy department and other rooms were located. The tour will visit these areas as well as the building’s roof, where – many are surprised to learn – the museum’s resident lion once lived.

Anyone interested in attending can click here for more information. The event is free, but space is limited, so it is recommended that those wishing to attend register in advance. Registration info can be found at the link above.

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