Milwaukee Public Museum’s re-accreditation application on hold


The Milwaukee Public Museum’s application for re-accreditation was tabled by its national museum association, MPM president and chief executive officer Ellen Censky said Thursday.

MPM seeks re-accreditation every 10 years through the American Alliance of Museums, which is a process of self-study and peer review that evaluates a museum’s operations and impact. Accreditation serves as a national recognition that a museum is operating at high standards, and it lends credibility when seeking funding.

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.

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Censky said the alliance ultimately chose to table the application for about a year, citing MPM’s inadequate facilities. AAM representatives completed a site visit of MPM in October.

“This status is not a surprise because of the condition of the building and the threat to the present collections,” Censky told board members during MPM’s annual meeting Thursday. She added that AAM cited issues with the facility as a major concern during the museum’s last re-accreditation report, which was issued in 2016.

MPM leaders have for years warned that its accreditation is in jeopardy due to significant maintenance issues at its current county-owned building at 800 W. Wells St. It’s one of the museum’s major talking points when making the case for building a new home in downtown Milwaukee.

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In 2019, Censky said the current museum building faces an estimated $87 million in deferred maintenance projected over the next 20 years. 

“It’s unlikely that MPM would ever be accredited in this building,” Censky told board members. “And of course failure to become re-accredited is a black mark on the institution, a black mark on this city and on this state.”

Censky said AAM is “encouraged” by the progress MPM is making to build a new facility, which is planned as a 230,000-square-foot development on a 2.4-acre site at the northeast corner of North Sixth Street and McKinley Avenue in downtown.

“They want to see that continued momentum, particularly in securing the cornerstone public and private funds needed to ensure the success of this project,” Censky said.

The project took a step forward earlier this week when Gov. Tony Evers released his proposed upcoming biennial budget, which requests $40 million in state funding for what’s expected to be a $240 million project.

Censky said she’s confident that the MPM is making progress toward securing private and public funding for the project and ultimately being re-accredited.

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