Guests walk through the 3rd floor exhibit



Opening June 3rd, 2021

Learn more about our exhibits! Discover themes unique to Wisconsin’s history through the present.

Special Temporary Exhibits

People of the Woodlands

2nd Floor

A historic earthenware vessel showcased in the First Settlers Exhibit, Click to learn more

First Settlers

Who were the first people in Wisconsin? How do we discover their history? This exhibit showcases artifacts left by Wisconsin’s first settlers, an immersive recreation of a ca.1,000- year- old Aztalan house, and interactive explorations of how archaeologists discover history.

  • PaleoIndian | Archaic | Woodland | Late Woodland | Oneota
  • Effigy Mounds
  • Aztalan: A Native American Town
  • The Grand Village of the Meskwaki
  • Layers of History
  • What Do Archaeologists Do

The Busy Year Exhibit, click to learn more

The Busy Year

Explore a year in the life of an Ojibwe family. Guests can look inside a replica wigwam from the 1700s, explore the process of wild ricing, and learn about traditions that come with each passing season.

“Wigwam, A Winter Home,” ice fishing, hunting and trapping, medicines
Maple sugaring, from bark to string, fishing, deer hunting
Basswood bark bags, woven bags, wood utensils, mat making, yarn bags, gardening and gathering, “The Bark Lodge: A Summer Home”
Preparing food for winter, cattail mats, wild ricing, courting flutes

A group of people huddle around an exhibit display in the Era of Exchange, click to learn more

Era of Exchange

European exploration and the fur trade brought a new era to Wisconsin—an era of trade, discovery, and conflict. Look inside our replica trading post, learn about the trappers, traders, and explorers who participated in the fur trade, and examine the fraught history of treaties between Native Peoples of Wisconsin and Europeans.

  • Fur Trade Post
  • Native Women of the Fur Trade
  • The Trade
  • The Jesuits
  • Wisconsin Treaties

Two traditional outfits from Tribes that have been located in Wisconsin immemorial, click to learn more

Native Nations and Tribes

How does tradition live on today? Learn how American Indians practice and perform their culture in Wisconsin through art, clothing, dance, language, and stories.

  • Images of the Ho-Chunk
  • Living Tradition: Performing and Practicing American Indian Culture in Wisconsin
  • A Tradition of Change/Art in Everyday Life
  • The Powwow
  • Native Languages of Wisconsin
  • Between Two Worlds: Indian Boarding Schools in Wisconsin

The entrance to the Mine at the Historic Museum

Frontier Wisconsin

Explore the world of the first European settlers in Wisconsin. Guests can walk inside our replica lead mine, find artifacts from the first Capitol building in Madison, and travel the trails of settlers coming by wagon, boat, or train.

  • Taking Control of the Land
  • The Military Frontier
  • Fur Trade Communities
  • Land of Diversity
  • Lead Mining

An exhibit in the Immigration State

The Immigrant State

Imagine yourself as an immigrant coming to Wisconsin. What would you bring? What would you remember from the country you had left? And what would change once you arrived? Explore immigrant history through the objects, ideas, and traditions that people from all over the world brought to our state.

  • Coming to Wisconsin
  • To Bring
  • To Remember
  • To Change
  • To Gather
  • Conflict

A milk processing exhibit in Making a Living

Making a Living

What do we make in Wisconsin? Or maybe the question is, what don’t we make? Delve into our many industries, past and present. Guests can view our two authentic Wisconsin-made cars; climb inside a tractor; learn about dairy, lumber, and agriculture; and check out cases full of things made in Wisconsin, from typewriters to tater tots.

  • Made in Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin at Work
  • Tourism
  • Invisible Industry/Auto Industry
  • Mechanizing Agriculture
  • Scientific Agriculture
  • Road to Dairyland
  • Heavy Industry
  • Wagon Making
  • Farm Life, Home Life
  • Diversified Agriculture
  • Wheat Farming
  • Lumbering

On Common Ground

4th Floor

Some older individuals wander around an exhibit in the Sense of Community Exhibit

Sense of Community

Discover how people in Wisconsin gather together and build community. Grab an imaginary drink at our Cozy Nook tavern; take in a show at the circus, theatre, or magician’s stage; and explore the past and present Wisconsin State Fair. Before you leave, take in the best view of the Wisconsin State Capitol that you’ll find anywhere.

  • Meet Me at the Fair
  • On With the Show
  • Cozy Nook
  • State Fair Exhibits
  • The University Extension

A woman examines and exhibit in the Laboratory of Democracy

Laboratory of Democracy

Wisconsin has long been a political battleground. Explore varied political movements and debates in our state including Progressivism, participation in World War I, and Women’s Suffrage. Listen to speeches from key Wisconsin political figures ranging from Robert La Follette to Joseph McCarthy to Vel Phillips. And check out our display of political buttons ranging from the 1890s to the 1990s.

  • The Political Arena
  • The Need For Reform
  • Progressivism
  • Socialism
  • Patriotism and War
  • Wisconsin and the New Deal
  • Votes for Women
  • The End of An Era: Collapse of the Progressive Party in Wisconsin