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.

Nancy Ekholm Burkert's <em>Valentine and Orson</em> Illustrations
41.) Nancy Ekholm Burkert's <em>Valentine and Orson</em> Illustrations

The museum holds the sketches, notes, and original artwork that was published in Nancy Burkert's book, Valentine and Orson, the story of twin boys separated at birth; one was raised by royalty and the other by bears. The artwork in this book was inspired by Brueghel in its artistic style, and Burkert was praised for her stunning artwork. Burkert was a long time UW-Milwaukee art professor, and before working on this book, Burkert illustrated Roald Dahl books such as James and the Giant Peach.

Darwin's "Barnacles" book
42.) Darwin's "Barnacles" book

This first edition Darwin book, published in 1854, was originally cataloged in the San Francisco Library collection. By good fortune, the book was checked out during the 1906 fire that destroyed the building and made its way to the Milwaukee Public Museum's library a few years later.

The publication of this work not only established Darwin's reputation as a biologist, but as a result of the research, he discovered that barnacles represent a transitional stage between hermaphroditism (individuals with both male and female sex organs) and sexual reproduction. This strengthened an important insight of Darwin's – that sexual reproduction was essential for variation in species – and in natural selection, his central mechanism for evolution.

Glass Cane Portraits
44.) Glass Cane Portraits

The glass cane mini-portraits are Italian made. Glass cane is a way of stretching glass, making beautiful, colorful, and delicate artwork. The portraits are tiny round pieces of glass with a face of a person in the center. The glass cane portraits in the Milwaukee Public Museum are an example of true artistry and craftsmanship.

Nunnemacher Decorative Arts Collection
45.) Nunnemacher Decorative Arts Collection

In 1886, a 14 year-old Rudolph Nunnemacher became involved with the new Milwaukee Public Museum when he donated his rock collection. His passion to collect continued through the years, primarily obtaining decorative arts items, guns, and East Asian religious imagery. When he died prematurely in 1900, nearly 2,000 items were willed to the Milwaukee Public Museum, including his housewares and paintings from all over the world. The Nunnemacher Decorative Arts collection has continued to grow through donations to the Nunnemacher Collection.

Frackelton Pottery
46.) Frackelton Pottery

Susan Frackelton, born in Milwaukee in 1848, was a local artist for most of her life, but was internationally known and honored. She was a major supporter of the Arts and Crafts movement in Wisconsin and taught local women how to paint their own pots as a hobby. Frackelton's main type of artistic expression was pottery and she later started to experiment with salt glazed stoneware. Frackelton was honored for the first time for her ceramic expertise at the 1889 Paris Exposition and in 1893, she won many awards for her stone glazed stoneware at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. She also organized a large exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1900 that incorporated decorative arts and discussions on women's issues. She was an inventor and developed a gas kiln and she also developed and marketed her own brand of ceramic paints and brushes. Later in life, she devoted her full attention to lecturing on women's issues. She died in Chicago in 1932.

Works Progress Administration Murals
47.) Works Progress Administration Murals
A63, photo negative #72875

One of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal administration policies, the Works Progress Administration, offered jobs to keep people employed during the Great Depression. At the Milwaukee Public Museum, Director Samuel A. Barrett wanted to keep his staff employed, so he designated space for murals throughout the museum to depict different exhibits and periods in world history. This endeavor allowed the current museum staff to stay employed during a time when many people were losing their jobs. This mural shown here is by Albert O. Tieman and is titled Milwaukee Workers Being Paid by Check in 1937.

Solomon Juneau Collection
48.) Solomon Juneau Collection

A French Canadian fur trader, politician and land speculator, Solomon Juneau was one of the founders of the city of Milwaukee. In 1818, Juneau came to Milwaukee to work as a clerk at the American Fur Company's trading post in Milwaukee and saw potential in the city. Shortly thereafter, he won a pre-emption from the government and acquired land between the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan. Here, Juneau developed the Milwaukee Journal and became the postmaster for the emerging city. In 1846 he was elected the first mayor of Milwaukee. The Juneau collection at the Milwaukee Public Museum includes many of his personal papers, including his business as a fur trader and his land dealings. The collection also contains portraits of Juneau and his wife, Josette, and some of his guns and surveying instruments.

Park City Grays Uniform
49.) Park City Grays Uniform

Park City was the original name of Kenosha, Wisconsin and the Park City Grays were the local militia. The group was mustered into the Wisconsin 1st infantry at Milwaukee and sent, wearing their gray coats, to guard Washington DC at the outbreak of the Civil War. Before the Civil War, the color of the 1st Wisconsin Militia (as well as many other states) was gray. However, gray was the color of the Confederate Army as well, and at the beginning of the Civil War, the Union quickly changed their color to blue. This coat was worn by Sergeant Warren Graham in 1861. Graham, a Milwaukee native, was the first casualty of the Civil War to be buried in Wisconsin.

Mitchell Civil War coat
50.) Mitchell Civil War coat

This Mitchell Civil War uniform, part of a larger group of Mitchell militia material, belonged to John Lendrum Mitchell, son of prominent Milwaukee banker Alexander Mitchell. John served in the Wisconsin 24th Infantry and rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. After the Civil War, John was a gentleman farmer and had a large estate in what is today West Allis, Wisconsin. He was very well educated and served in the Wisconsin legislature and later served as a United States Senator. John's second son, William, rose to prominence in the U.S. Army Flying Corps in WWI and was a strong proponent of American air power and founder of the modern Air Force. Mitchell International Airport is named for him. The Mitchell family is recognized as one of Milwaukee's first families.

Emerald Mound Pipes
51.) Emerald Mound Pipes

These limestone effigy pipes, excavated from the Emerald Mound site in southwestern Mississippi, were donated to the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1955. Emerald Mound served primarily as a ceremonial platform with a temple structure during the Mississippian period (AD 1250-1600). Tobacco was regularly used in Mississippian ceremonies to assist religious leaders in communicating with the spirit world. The pipes represent a cougar, two rattlesnakes, a kneeling human, and a bird/composite form.