Collection Highlights

133 Objects, 133 Years

The Milwaukee Public Museum curatorial staff have selected 133 of the most important, unique, or interesting objects and collections to highlight during our 133rd anniversary year. These items reflect the broad scope of the over 4 million-plus objects in the Museum's collections. Many of the items featured below are not on exhibit due to their fragile nature. One of the Museum's primary goals is to preserve objects for generations to come. As a virtual exhibit, we can share with people around the world our most rare and intriguing items without harm to them.

Rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis)
133.) Rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis)

This rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) specimen was collected in 1915 in Milwaukee. Rusty patched bumblebees live in prairie ecosystems and collect pollen and nectar from a variety of plants. Once a common sight in Wisconsin, the northern Midwest, and the northeastern states, land use changes and habitat loss have caused a steep decline in rusty patched bee populations. The species was listed as Federally Endangered under the Endangered Species Act in January 2017. Along with over 3,000 other Apidae family bees, this bee has been photographed and had its label information transcribed. MPM's digitization efforts -- for bees and other natural history collections -- contribute to the growing network of specimen collections data available to scientists and researchers. Sharing data about our specimens helps scientists, landowners, and conservationists in their fight to bring the rusty patched bumblebee back from the brink of extinction.