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.

Milwaukee Bucks
11.) Milwaukee Bucks
28523
H53488

The Milwaukee Public Museum's Milwaukee Bucks Collection holds the franchise establishment papers for the Bucks. The NBA awarded the franchise in 1968 to Wesley Pavalon and Marvin Fishman. That first season, the team struggled to win games, as is typical with new teams in the NBA, but they became successful their second season when Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Adbul Jabbar) joined the team. In addition to the papers, the collection also features the first Milwaukee game ball the Bucks used in competition plus game balls from the Bucks' appearance at the National Championship game in 1971.

Newhall House Fire Relics
12.) Newhall House Fire Relics
28520
N/A

The Newhall House fire relics recall the story of one of the nation's greatest hotel disasters. Before burning down, the Newhall House Hotel was one of the finest hotels in the country. Located in downtown Milwaukee, it attracted many guests from all over the world. Unfortunately, in January 1883, the hotel burnt to the ground, leaving at least 90 dead. After the fire, locals came to the ruins and picked through the ashes for Newhall House memorabilia to take home. Occasionally burned artifacts, like this goblet, are still being donated today.

"Tut" Clay Seal
13.) "Tut" Clay Seal
20639
N14595

The "Tut" clay seal was acquired by the Museum in the 1960s from a collector in New York. It was not until the late 1980s that a curator was working with the piece and saw the hieroglyphs for the syllable "TUT" in the cartouche. "TUT" only appears in one Egyptian pharaoh's name -- Tutankhamen. The item was reviewed by a prominent Egyptologist from Chicago, and its relationship to Tutankhamen was tentatively accepted. The seal is currently on display in the Crossroads of Civilization exhibit.

Dresden Tete-a-Tete Tea Set
14.) Dresden Tete-a-Tete Tea Set
10327
E38470-E38473

This late 19th century porcelain tea set came from Germany. All the pieces have footed cups and the set includes a tea pot, cups, a creamer, and a sugar cup. The set has gold enamel and iridescent maroon colors. It is the finest and most beautiful tea set in the Milwaukee Public Museum. Dresden, Germany produces a significant amount of porcelain and is considered the "porcelain cradle of Europe."

Japanese Censer from Schlitz Palm Garden
15.) Japanese Censer from Schlitz Palm Garden
7219
N7021

The Schlitz Palm Garden was one of the most popular beer gardens (biergartens) of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was a gathering place for politicians, celebrities, and local families. Inside, a bronze Japanese censer stood over sixteen feet tall. This censer was very typical of late 19th century Japanese exports and may have been made specifically for the Schlitz Palm Garden. Japanese artwork, like the Japanese censer, were very popular in America in the 1880s and the 1890s. The censer is currently on exhibit in the Sense of Wonder exhibit.

Telephone Answering Machine
16.) Telephone Answering Machine
N/A
H52547

The answering machine, a piece of technology people use all over the world, was invented here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The first answering machine was created by Joseph Zimmerman, a Milwaukee native, who had the idea for the invention after he spoke with an air conditioning and heating specialist who told him he did not want to leave his office because he had no secretary to take his phone calls. It weighs nearly 80 pounds and consists of two boxes; one had a record tape play and the other had a wire tape, which worked together to record the messages. Zimmerman created the answering machine in his Milwaukee home, patenting his creation in 1949. The museum currently has four different models of answering machines from the years 1949, 1965, 1968 and 1972.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker
17.) Ivory-billed Woodpecker
N/A
N/A

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is one of several species whose numbers have dwindled to the point where it is uncertain how many remain. The species is listed as critically endangered and possibly extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In 2003, sightings, sound recordings, and videotapes confirmed the presence of a male Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the Big Woods region of eastern Arkansas. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nature Conservancy, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and other state and federal agencies have established the "Big Woods Conservation Partnership" to preserve a 120 square mile area of forest for the species.

The Milwaukee Public Museum has four Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers in its Vertebrate Zoology department collections. The first one was donated to the Museum in 1888.

Jones Island Figurines
18.) Jones Island Figurines
22006
H18819-H18820

The Jones Island Figurines are rare folk art carved by John Mickowski during his retirement (from 1956 until his death in 1982). Carving close to 200 figures, Mickowski's goal was to make art that depicted the life of people on Jones Island. Jones Island was a small community in Milwaukee on Lake Michigan. Carvings included members of his family and other area natives, such as the fisherman and the peddler. The Jones Island figurines range from a few inches tall to 7 or 8 feet. In 1968, John Mickowski donated three figurines to the museum, and since then three more pieces of Mickowski's art have been donated.

Fortuny Dress
19.) Fortuny Dress
26669
H42762

Italian dress designer Mariano Fortuny was inspired by ancient classical style. Fortuny dresses display a consistent style throughout his career. Most dresses had pleated silk that was dyed in an elaborate style, which Fortuny never documented (and consequently, cannot be replicated today). The Fortuny dress at the Milwaukee Public Museum is rose colored, accented with small glass beads and a sash. The sash is gold print and says "Fortuny D s e" on it. This is a rare dress representing 1920s high culture.

Indiana Wreath Quilt
20.) Indiana Wreath Quilt
27057
H44900

The Milwaukee Public Museum acquired the Indiana wreath quilt in the 1980s. This was one of four quilts designed (but not quilted) by Rose Kretsinger of Emporia, Kansas. Kretsinger was part of the "Emporia, Kansas phenomenon," a small group of women who designed and crafted the most detailed and exquisite quilts of the 20th century. This quilt design dates to 1925.