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Milwaukee Public Museum has groundbreaking ceremony. But donations are falling short

Milwaukee Public Museum has groundbreaking ceremony. But donations are falling short

Milwaukee Public Museum’s future home had its groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, with construction to begin in June.

The ceremony was moved from the construction site, at West McKinley Avenue and North Sixth Street, to The Trade hotel, 420 W. Juneau Ave., because of rain. Mayor Cavalier Johnson and others praised the $240 million project.

Johnson told the crowd the museum “will be a major driver” in Milwaukee’s continued growth, with County Executive David Crowley calling it “an exciting new landmark building.”

It will be “a place of answers” about learning, natural history and healing, said Mark Denning, an educator and Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin member.

The new building is to open in early 2027.

The museum so far has raised more than $80 million in private donations − well short of its $108 million goal by the groundbreaking ceremony.

Private fundraising tied to $45 million in county funds

That goal is tied to the level needed to trigger the use of a $45 million grant from Milwaukee County, Katie Sanders, museum chief planning officer, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She said the trigger amount is actually around $105 million.

Sanders declined to provide an exact amount of what’s been raised so far. She said it’s more than the $80 million figure used most recently by museum officials.

The museum will begin foundation and footings construction in June, Sanders said. And additional funding announcements are in the works, she said.

The museum is seeking $150 million in private donations. That includes donations for the museum’s endowment, which wouldn’t be used for building the new facility.

Along with $45 million from the county and $40 million from the state, the museum is seeking $5 million in federal grants.

The cost of designing and constructing the new museum and its exhibits is estimated at $200 million. Additional costs include $20 million for the museum’s endowment and $20 million to move the collections.

The current museum, which opened in 1963 at 800 W. Wells St., is too large, inefficient and affected by years of deferred maintenance, according to museum officials.

Tom Daykin can be emailed at and followed on Instagram, X and Facebook.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Public Museum has groundbreaking ceremony for its new home

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