The Waukesha County Museum, which started in a basement room of the old courthouse in 1914, houses a more-than-2,000-square-foot repository for American history. The Memories of World War II touring exhibit pays homage to veterans, photographers, and reporters with more than 100 photos from Associated Press archives in addition to testimonies and hundreds of artifacts donated by local residents. Duck into the Greatest Generation Theater for a 20-minute film that illuminates the sagas of four local surviving WWII veterans.
Completed in 1892 as the private home of the Pabst family, Pabst Mansion stands as the last bastion of more than 80 mansions built for Milwaukee’s elite during a booming, bygone era. Since its construction, the estate has housed archbishops, priests, and sisters and was saved from near-demolition during the 1970s. The Flemish-Renaissance-Revival home has since been awarded a place on the National Register of Historic Places for its bounty of architectural intricacies.
Today, on-staff docents conduct a range of tours for public groups, private parties, school groups, and well-behaved rugby teams through the fortress of halls, opulent rooms, and verdant grounds, each restored to their original condition.
The Pabst Mansion’s impressive art collection includes works from the 1640s through the 1900s by artists such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gaetano Trentanove, and Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven. The emporium of excess also features Pabst Beer Pavilion, the pavilion built for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the glass-covered conservatory where tropical plants and beer trees continue to flourish.
The mansion gift shop holds classic Pabst drinkware and memorabilia as well as antique photos, books, and former employees' original finger paintings.
German expressionism. American decorative arts. Among the nation's best American art post 1960. The Milwaukee Art Museum is a leading American institution for the work of self-taught artists and holds one of the largest collections of works by Georgia O’Keeffe and other artistic luminaries in four floors of the 341,000-square-foot museum. Encompassing more than 25,000 pieces, the museum's collection ranges from 90 works of Haitian art and 450-plus German expressionist prints to an expansive contemporary art selection that includes pieces by Andy Warhol. Among the more singular holdings in the more than 40 galleries are the earliest surviving American-made chair.
Temporary and traveling exhibitions pass through each year, spotlighting everything from Rembrandt to color photography. Upcoming highlights include tattoo art, nineteenth-century portraiture, and, in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the abstract paintings of Wassily Kandinsky. Delve deeper into works on display during lectures and talks, part of a packed events calendar that includes concerts and film screenings. Visitors can also flex their own artistic muscles during programs such as kids' and adult art classes.
It's rare for museums to have cozy dining rooms, but the Charles Allis Art Museum wasn't always a museum. Earlier in the 20th century, it was businessman and arts patron Charles Allis's Tudor-style mansion. Allis bequeathed it to the public along with his massive art collection, though, and nowadays, visitors can stop by to see pieces that span 2,000 years. Some highlights? Works by Winslow Homer, Classic antiquities, a large collection of Asian ceramics, plus rotating exhibits by local Wisconsin artists.
The Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum nestles in a historic mansion, too, albeit a different one. This one was built in the likeness of an Italian Renaissance villa in 1923, by architect David Adler. Its art spans a smaller period, from the 15th century through to the 18th. Visitors can browse wrought-iron work by Cyril Colnik, and explore a formal, outdoor Renaissance garden.
Reservations/Appointments: Not offered
Staff Size: 2–10 people
Parking: Parking lot
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
Pro Tip: If you call in advance, we can get a docent for your tour.
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Exhibits on Golda Meir and Jews Who Rock
What is the one feature of your business that you're most proud of?
Jewish Museum Milwaukee has beautiful engaging displays, including the only Marc Chagall tapestry in Milwaukee. This is an epic piece—it's 14'x19') and provides perspective on Jewish history. In addition, our changing exhibits enliven the understanding of the Jewish experience. Every three months, JMM has a totally new display to explore.
Have you ever been a patron of your own business? If so, what was the most enjoyable part?
I love touring the Museum. There are so many interesting and unique stories that show the development of the city of Milwaukee. There is a lot of information, but the museum's size makes it easy to get through in an hour or two.
Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
Right now our changing exhibit is Jews Who Rock (through August 10). This display includes fabulous performance photographs, loads of trivia, and great connections to many artists and their work. In September, we are opening our largest exhibit to date, Stitching History from the Holocaust, which will detail the experience of Hedy Strnad, a woman who sent eight designs to Milwaukee in the hopes of immigrating.