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Milwaukee Public Museum’s holiday plans include two returning events

The interior of a museum exhibit depicting a Polish household at the turn of the 20th century, with a decorated Christmas tree in the foreground as a female mannequin sits at a dinner table in the background.
Milwaukee Public Museum
The Polish house from the Milwaukee Public Museum's European Village, all decked out for the holidays.

The phased return from pandemic-related cancellations has been a nice reminder of all the cool happening around the area that we may have overlooked in the past. The Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) will provide two more memory-joggers in the weeks ahead as its holiday plans get dialed back up to full blast.

The first returnee happens this weekend as European Village Alive does pretty much what the name suggests, bringing the museum’s European Village exhibit to life between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. this Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8-9. MPM docents and volunteers will inject some energy (and movement) into the usual setting by dressing up in clothing that aims to capture the turn of the 20th century in a few of the countries found in the exhibit.

While you stroll around the scene, you’ll get a glimpse of holiday-themed artifacts from the museum’s collection, pick up traditional recipes to recreate at home and hear from the village “residents.”

“Our interpreters will share stories about traditions that were brought over by European immigrants that have shaped our modern-day American holiday season, including greeting cards, Christmas trees, wreaths, gingerbread, mistletoe, holly, nativity scenes and stockings,” MPM collections interpretation manager Amanda Kopp said in a release.

A museum exhibit of an apothecary exterior at the turn of the century with garland wrapped around poles near the front door.
Milwaukee Public Museum
The apothecary in the Streets of Old Milwaukee gets dressed up for the holidays.

Also coming back this year is the chance for adults to enjoy the museum after hours via the Old Milwaukee Mixer from 7 to 9:30 p.m. next Thursday, Dec. 14. The decorated Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit will host this combo of learning and libations as guests dig into drink-and-appetizer pairings while they hear about food, fashion and entertainment from the Victorian era.

“It’s exciting to bring back two fan-favorite experiences after a three-year hiatus,” MPM education events coordinator Erin Goff said in the release. “Our visitors always look forward to our decorated Streets of Old Milwaukee and European Village exhibits, and we’re thrilled to be able to use those settings as inspiration for unique, holiday-themed activities this year.

"The Mixer will offer interactive activities that explore themes like parlor games, the menus that shaped the city’s culinary heritage, clothing staples and trends and the art of getting your portrait taken.”

The event also includes a cash bar, holiday selections from a barbershop quartet and short holiday films playing in the Nickelodeon Theater. Tickets are $32 and available now on the MPM website.

Those not quite old enough to get into the Old Milwaukee Mixer can still enjoy the look and feel of the holiday season right now courtesy of Deck the Streets and Village, which runs between now and Jan. 21. Streets of Old Milwaukee will feature Victorian-era greenery, bells and ribbons, plus a classic seasonal soundtrack. Similarly, the nine homes in the European Village will add culturally specific holiday items that you can learn about via QR codes in the windows of each one.

The immersive learning continues in the Holidays in History Tour, which takes place from 11 a.m. to noon Dec. 16, 23 and 30. The free 50-minute stroll through the exhibits will provide some informative background to the holiday-transformed surroundings with info about how immigrants’ European traditions are still present in today’s yuletide festivities.

Finally, the Florentine Opera Holiday Concert featuring Baumgartner Studio Artists will be back at the museum this year to perform Christmas hymns and other songs from 2 to 3 p.m. next Monday, Dec. 11. The performance in front of the Butterfly Vivarium on the first floor is part of the MPM’s SPARK! program for people in the early stages of dementia and their care partners but is open to all museum attendees.

“Musical intervention has been found to have benefits for people with memory loss, as it often evokes emotion,” MPM community engagement and advocacy officer Dawn Koceja said in the release. “In past years of the performance, I've witnessed SPARK! participants sing along, move to the beat and even be moved to tears as memories come to the surface when they hear these songs.”

For more information on all of the museum’s holiday programming, visit the MPM website.