This month, the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum (BBCM) agreed to co-locate. The new building will be on the northeast corner of Sixth and McKinley streets near the Deer District in downtown Milwaukee.
In 2018, MPM announced its plans to build and move to a new facility because its current space of 50 years no longer meets the needs for storage and exhibits. BBCM has a similar problem: it has been in a space on the lakefront since 1995 that was never meant to be a museum.
"We’re very excited about this opportunity because while we do have a unique, beautiful location here on the lakefront, we’re in a space that was never designed to be a children’s museum, that’s really smaller than we would like it to be," says BBCM Executive Director Brian King.
While the details still need to be ironed out, discussions to share a space have been in the works well before the coronavirus pandemic, according to Ellen Censky, president and CEO of MPM.
"We think it's really the right thing to do for the community," she says. "It enhances both [museums] to be able to have people walk into the one space that has two separate offerings."
Although MPM and BBCM will share a new facility down the road, they will remain two separate entities. The children's museum will be a tenant in the new building, occupying about 30,000 square feet of MPM's 230,000 square-foot facility.
For King, the possibility of making a space that can be reinvented is the most exciting prospect. However, he assures that the core of what BBCM does will not change with a new space, and some version of its iconic "Hometown" exhibit will be included.
"We are all about inspiring children to wonder and explore their world through play and innovative hands-on learning experiences, and that we will bring to the new museum," says King.
Censky notes that this will be MPM's fourth home, and with each move the museum keeps the needs of future generations in mind. So, while you may not see the exact same exhibits, they will be reimagined in new ways.
Both Censky and King note that museums are not each others' competition, but can instead collaborate to bring in and inspire people of all ages.
"Families aren't all one age ... so [this] allows families to come in and be able to partake in both institutions and have a great time in this one campus," says Censky.