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Snake button and ‘Mixing Zones’ revealed in latest wave of MPM renderings

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Milwaukee Public Museum unveiled its latest wave of exhibit space this week, including details on a permanent gallery and a new way to showcase items from its collection in storage. And, yes, the famous “snake button” is in the plan.

The new exhibit will be called "Living in a Dynamic World" and will showcase five distinct landscapes: deserts, the Arctic, islands, grasslands and mountains.

“'Living in a Dynamic World' will take a deep, thoughtful look at the ways humans and other species have interacted with, adapted to and shaped each featured landscape, examining both the present and past,” MPM president and CEO Dr. Ellen Censky said. “The exhibits and cultures highlighted in 'Living in a Dynamic World' were chosen with our vast collections in mind, and we’ll be showcasing both familiar and never-before-seen items in the context of cultural stories, which are being developed in consultation with origin communities.”

Renderings of the new gallery show familiar elements like taxidermy and diorama, with additional cases showing human culture and its impact on each of the landscapes. A giant globe will orient visitors with ocean currents and trade routes. Interactive elements will activate all senses, including smell, with dramatic lighting transitions as visitors move between terrains.

Milwaukee Public Museum

In addition to the permanent gallery, MPM also announced "Mixing Zones" — a new way to show items from its massive collection of objects in storage. These two flexible spaces will allow museum staff to rotate displays, with one dedicated to research and science, and the other focused on culture. Each space will present visitors with new ways to look at and experience the 4 million collections items in the museum’s care, according to a press release.

“One of the goals of the Future Museum is to ensure visitors can experience unique, never-before-seen looks into the collections — including the millions of items that have historically been off-view as they are kept for scientific research,” MPM chief planning officer Katie Sanders said. “The 'Mixing Zones' will provide an opportunity for visitors to not only see the science and research that goes on behind the scenes, but to actively engage with it through hands-on and interactive experiences.”

On this episode of Urban Spelunking, OnMilwaukee’s Bobby Tanzilo and I start by giving you an overview of the plan, then bring you some perspectives directly from museum officials and designers leading the effort. Listen to this week’s episode using the player at the top of the page, and visit for more.

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee