The world at your fingertips: visit the Milwaukee Public Museum

MPM Kids

Half a million visitors a year come to learn about the world at the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM). With nearly 4.5 million specimens in its collections, MPM is the largest museum in Wisconsin and among the largest in the Midwest. Since 1884, MPM has been a resource to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin community and the community at large.

The A. O. Smith Foundation and MPM have been partners long before the Foundation was established. The partnership has grown since 1947 – spanning nearly 70 years.

In recent years, from 2010-2015, the Foundation’s charitable donations have been designated to support the Museum’s Summer Urban Academy. The program helps underprivileged youth in the Milwaukee area keep up with their science skills in the summer. 

MPM kids in labThrough the Summer Urban Academy, MPM educators stimulate students’ interest in science by guiding them in exploration of exhibits in the museum. MPM staff offer their expertise by leading students on investigation-based programs in areas such as archaeology, paleontology, entomology, environmental science, and astronomy, all while making learning fun and complementing Wisconsin educational standards. There are multiple one hour programs that youth ages 9-14 can be signed-up for by their schools or community organizations.   

“The Summer Urban Academy is designed to make sure children don’t fall behind in the summer,” notes Ellen Censky, Ph.D., MPM Senior Vice President and Academic Dean.

“Many kids attend summer camps, enriching their out-of-school experiences, but many of the parents in low-income areas don’t have the resources to provide their children with those opportunities. The Summer Urban Academy helps fill that gap,” Dr. Censky continues. 

A total of 314 youth took part in the 2015 summer program, with 221 of the students coming from local Milwaukee Public Schools, 33 from Neighborhood House and 60 from the Boys & Girls Clubs’ community learning centers. Five MPM educators provided all of the classes for the program. Strong community partnerships are really what drive the program.

In addition to the Summer Urban Academy, MPM also provides many opportunities for under-served children including early learning programs for children ages 4-6 and distance learning to over 6,000 students throughout Wisconsin and over 20,000 kids nationwide.

“Our partnership with the Milwaukee Public Museum is essential in helping our youth gain access to learning about the world’s unique history, botany and geology,” says Roger Smith, A. O. Smith director - community affairs.

MPM programs within the community
Today the Museum is continuing to thrive under new leadership with President and CEO, Dennis Kois. Kois, who is originally from the greater Milwaukee area, has turned the museum inside out and is making sure that MPM is entrenched in the community.

For example, MPM is creating a series of pop-up museums; small, temporary exhibits created by the community, showcasing objects and stories that fit a theme. The pop-ups help bring people together to learn about the world in which we live.  An MPM Pop-Up Museum was recently held at 88Nine Radio station.

Another distinctive program offered by MPM called SPARK! has sparked the attention of museums nation-wide. The SPARK! program helps extend the Museum’s cultural and historical collections to create meaningful experiences for older adults living with dementia and their caregivers.

The Museum also has many programs for families, such as museum overnights where families can camp out at the museum for a unique behind-the-scenes experience. 

MPM LogoWhat’s new at the Museum?
If you haven’t visited the museum lately or plan to visit the area, you won’t want to miss the new permanent Crossroads of Civilization exhibit, which brings the Museum’s collections of the ancient worlds of the Near East and Mediterranean to life.

You also can’t miss checking out the ever popular Puelicher Butterfly Vivarium, the Daniel M. Soref National Geographic Dome Theater & Planetarium, and the Streets of Old Milwaukee, which is being re-imagined and will reopen for the 2015 holiday season.

A new traveling exhibit called ‘Ultimate Dinosaurs’ will be opened in 2016. ‘Our Global Kitchen,’ another traveling exhibit where you can learn about food from different countries and how we are all connected globally because of food, will showcase in 2017.

For more information about MPM and their unique programs and exhibits visit