This article was originally published in the Milwaukee Public Journal by Margaret Naczek.

Museum Inspired. That’s the working title for the Milwaukee Public Museum’s new project, which its president Ellen Censky hopes will lead to a new home.

The Milwaukee Public Museum’s current home at 800 W. Wells St., which is owned by Milwaukee County, faces around $100 million in deferred maintenance, which has many implications. For one, the museum is up for reaccreditation and if the 501(c)(3) organization does not move forward in the process for a new home that reaccreditation that its held for many years could be put on hold or denied. It would be a “big black mark” on the reputation of the Milwaukee Public Museum, Censky said.

Problems such as a leaking roof require the museum to close certain exhibits for a part of the year.

“It’s impacting our visitors’ experience and it’s impacting our ability to care for the collections that we hold and trust for this community,” Censky said.

The museum started a $3 million mini-campaign to begin the push for its “Museum Inspired” project. Already, the museum has raised $2 million of its goal with Northwestern Mutual committing a $1 million grant to the museum, which was announced Wednesday.

Chief planning officer Katie Sanders said that if timelines would all move accordingly, the museum could break ground on a more than $100 million building in 2022 and open in 2025.

Censky hopes that the museum can find its new home in the general vicinity of its current one, west of the Milwaukee River.

The “Museum Inspired” initiative features five pillars that support the vision for a new home.

  • Integration of stories: Due to its rich cultural and natural history collections, MPM is the only institution in Wisconsin capable of telling a variety of unique cultural and scientific stories, Censky said.
  • Turning the museum “inside out”: Engage the public in the behind-the-scenes research taking place at MPM.
  • Engagement in science: Whether its monitoring bee species or tracking butterflies, Censky said she hopes to engage children and families in actually doing science.
  • Immersive learning: Censky said she plans to incorporate technology into a new museum but also wants to continue embracing the immersive environment of exhibits, which MPM is recognized for.
  • Relevancy and partnerships: Build up MPM’s community partnerships with local universities and other institutions.

The museum has hired Luci Creative, a Chicago firm, to begin the visioning process for a new museum home. The biggest focus is finding a new location.

“Great cities have great cultural institutions,” museum board member Lynn Brengel said. “Do we need this museum? Just look at the numbers. More people attend this museum than any other museum in the state of Wisconsin. That’s your starting point right there if people value it.”