Milwaukee Public Museum secures re-accreditation

A dinosaur diorama in the Third Planet exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Last updated on August 5th, 2022 at 10:21 am

With plans moving forward for a new Milwaukee Public Museum facility, MPM announced today that it has secured re-accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, national recognition that MPM is operating at high standards.

The news comes two weeks after MPM unveiled design plans for a planned new $240 million home in downtown Milwaukee, and said it was beginning a fundraising push to raise $130 million for the project. So far $110 million has been committed to the project in private, state and county funds.

The museum’s accreditation status has been at risk because of the deterioration of its longtime home in a county-owned building at 800 W. Wells St. in downtown Milwaukee, which has damaged exhibits and placed its collections at risk.

MPM president and chief executive officer Ellen Censky said in 2019 that the current museum building faces an estimated $87 million in deferred maintenance projected over the next 20 years. She said it was unlikely that MPM would be accredited at that building.

Last year, the American Alliance of Museums placed MPM’s application for re-accreditation on hold, due to the problems with its building and the uncertainty about its future.

Museums typically seek re-accreditation approximately every 10 years. Milwaukee Public Museum was most recently accredited in 2007. AAM generally has three options in its review of a museum’s accreditation: to deny the application, grant accreditation for another 10 years, or table its decision for one year so specific issues can be addressed.

Of the nation’s estimated 33,000 museums, 1,096 are currently accredited. Milwaukee Public Museum is one of only 21 museums accredited in Wisconsin. To earn accreditation a museum first must conduct a year of self-study, and then undergo a site visit by a team of peer reviewers. AAM’s Accreditation Commission, an independent and autonomous body of museum professionals, considers the self-study and visiting committee report to determine whether a museum should receive accreditation.

In a news release today, Censky said obtaining re-accreditation is an important step for MPM to secure its future and gain support for its new building project.

“For MPM, accreditation is essential to securing the future of this beloved institution and maintaining our status and collections as we look to the future,” said Censky. “Achieving this milestone along with the launch of our $240 million Wisconsin Wonders fundraising campaign and the unveiling of our new museum renderings will continue our momentum toward a museum that future generations can enjoy. We look forward to building on the $110 million in financial support we have already received from the state of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County and generous private donors.”

MPM hopes to open its new facility, to be located northeast of 6th Street and McKinley Avenue, in 2026.

“The Milwaukee Public Museum is a tremendous cultural asset to Milwaukee, and its accreditation asserts the institution’s commitment to preserve its world-class collections and remain a viable, thriving institution for the community, Wisconsin and visitors from around the world,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “This is another important milestone in the journey toward the new museum and a point of celebration for the county.”

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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