Many have blasted the move, saying they have childhood memories of the “Streets of Old Milwaukee.”
Responding to concern that they are getting rid of the iconic, nostalgic “Streets of Old Milwaukee” exhibit, the Milwaukee Public Museum admitted in a lengthy statement that they will be creating “new built-ins” that get rid of the name “Streets of Old Milwaukee” in the new museum.
The old exhibit is not coming over to the new museum, which opens in 2026, in full, the museum wrote in a statement, but there will be “a highly immersive walkthrough of Milwaukee that explores our marvelous city’s history, nature, and cultures.”
Admitted the museum: “It will not be called ‘Streets of Old Milwaukee,’ as all exhibits are getting new names. Stay tuned for more details later this spring, as we need a few more months to make sure every fun detail is just right.”
In other words, the “Streets of Old Milwaukee” as you know it will be no more, and the museum isn’t saying how much the new museum’s exhibit will resemble it, if at all. But there will be something immersive.
Some people criticized the decision on the museum’s comment thread. “The streets is the most visited exhibit in the museum. We understand that not everything can be the same, but this exhibit must stay as a large mainstay of the museum, it’s important to your visitors, your educational experience, your overall draw, and for our community,” wrote one man.
Another person wrote, “The Streets of Old Milwaukee was my favorite stop as a kid and I was able to finally make it back this last summer as an adult. I was still so fascinated with it, just like when I was little. It’s pure magic. I can’t wait to see what the new MPM will look like and can only hope it will hold the same magic for future children to experience and remember too.”
Streets of Old Milwaukee Controversy
The museum noted that, over the course of a few days, the museum’s previous statement that “entire exhibits won’t be moving over” fueled a lot of “speculation about the Future Museum.”
“While the community will get a first peek at the Future Museum exhibits in spring, here are a few details that might help to provide some clarity about our process,” the museum wrote.
But the statement was still pretty vague.
What does “entire exhibits won’t be moving over” mean?
“Most of our exhibits, like the Streets of Old Milwaukee, have elements that are built into the current facility. Deconstructing those in a way that won’t damage them and using those exact same materials to reconstruct them in a differently shaped building would be nearly impossible, not to mention excessively expensive and time-consuming. What we can do is construct new built-ins that create the same immersive, engaging experience you know and love at MPM,” they wrote.
They did not explain how much those “new built-ins” would resemble the Streets of Old Milwaukee.
“We also want to be completely transparent in that many favorite exhibit elements from MPM will be in the new Museum, but there will also be places where we’ll want to show you something new,” the museum wrote. “There are millions of objects and specimens behind the scenes that have never been on display before. We think it’s time to share some of those with you, and maybe even have some objects on rotation so you are exposed to new collections items throughout your visits.”
The museum added:
“Community input is important to MPM. We’ve been soliciting input on this project for years. We do read all the comments and emails. As you can imagine, we’ve heard everything from ‘don’t change a thing’ to ‘the Museum needs a complete overhaul.’ Where we want to land is somewhere in the middle, which means a mix of familiar favorites and what we hope will be some new favorites.”
“Unlike the current Museum, which has three floors of exhibits, the Future Museum will have four floors of many wonderful exhibit galleries that take you around the world and back in time. And yes, one of those exhibit ‘gallerie’ will be a highly immersive walkthrough of Milwaukee that explores our marvelous city’s history, nature, and cultures.”
The museum continued:
“Keep in mind that when the current Museum was built in the early 1960s, exhibits were designed and added one-by-one over a period of years. We are designing an entire Museum of exhibits at once. That takes an extraordinary amount of thought, time, and coordination from our curators, collections managers, exhibit artists, and architects. What we’ll show you in spring is a generous peek at which galleries we’ll have and what some of them will look like. Until then, we ask for your patience and want to reassure you that we understand how important the nostalgia of the current museum is to you.”
They added: “One more thing: Building and designing a museum is a long process, and we will share key milestones over the course of the next several years, leading to the opening in late 2026. Along the way, if you hear something about the Future Museum, please don’t assume it’s true unless you’ve seen that same information from official MPM channels. All important announcements will be made at mpm.edu/future and shared via MPM’s social media and email newsletters. It’s important that you have the facts. We love this Museum, too, and most of us have grown up here just like so many of you! We are honored to make sure it continues to be a community treasure for future generations.”