Museums in Madison WI – Uncovering Historical Treasures

Madison WI is home to a wide variety of museums that offer something for everyone. From the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum & Library to the Museum of Contemporary Art, you can explore the world of art, history and culture in Madison. From the UW Geology Museum to the Alliant Energy Children’s Garden, you can learn about the city’s geology and have an outdoor discovery experience. And finally, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum and Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac County offer an opportunity to understand the city’s military heritage and excite the kid’s imaginations. Perfect for a weekend getaway or a way to spend an afternoon, visit one of the many museums in Madison and experience what this city has to offer.

Wisconsin Historical Society Museum & Library

Located in the vibrant city of Madison, the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum & Library is the ideal destination for those seeking to learn more about the region’s vast and expansive history. Through its wide selection of interactive exhibits, special collections and educational opportunities, the museum has become a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike.

Major Exhibits Expanding Understanding of State History

Visitors to the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum & Library have the opportunity to delve into the state’s rich and fascinating history with a wide range of exhibits. One of the museum’s most popular events is the re-enactment of the signing of the Wisconsin Constitution. This special interactive exhibit brings to life this crucial moment in the state’s history through authentic re-enactments and has been running since 2018.

Another must-see in the museum is the Wisconsin exhibit. This in-depth event covers eleven centuries of the state’s history, from the earliest decades of settlement by Native Americans to the arrival of European settlers and beyond. Here, visitors will have the opportunity to explore the stories of Wisconsin’s past through an interactive timeline that combines videos, artifacts, and a range of other compelling interactive features.

To celebrate the state’s major role in the nation’s dairy industry, the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum & Library also features a special exhibit which focuses on the history of dairy farming in the state. Here, visitors will learn about the technological achievements and innovation that shaped Wisconsin’s dairying industry, as well as its social implications on the communities around it.

Educational Opportunities Emphasizing Wisconsin’s History

As well as a rich and varied collection of exhibits, the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum & Library also offers a range of educational opportunities to its visitors. These incorporate lectures, presentations, and guided tours, all of which focus on the state’s unique history and stories. There are even special interactive programs for all ages, aimed at those interested in developing an even deeper appreciation and understanding of the state’s culture and way of life.

Special Collections from the Wisconsin Historical Society Library

As part of the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum & Library, the mission of the branch library is to provide research, educational, and cultural appreciation to all who visit. In the library, visitors will have access to a wide variety of special collections, including original manuscripts, newspapers, exhibits, maps, photographs, and other artifacts related to Wisconsin’s history.

The library is well known among researchers and literature fans as the home to the world’s largest collection about the life and works of author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Other collections focus on particular topics or aspects of Wisconsin’s history and culture, such as its exploration and settlement, logging and lumber, shipbuilding, ethnic communities, and much more.

The Wisconsin Historical Society Museum & Library is a fantastic destination for everyone interested in learning more about Wisconsin’s history. From its extensive collection of exhibits to its special collections from the library, the museum is a gateway to the state’s fascinating past.

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Chazen Museum of Art

The Chazen Museum of Art in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, has a proud history. Opened on October 3rd, 1970, it’s mission is to inspire the love of visual arts and foster an appreciation of art from all cultures and countries, enhancing the public’s knowledge and understanding of the visual arts worldwide. The Chazen is part of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and is home to a priceless collection of art, as well as fascinating exhibitions and a host of educational opportunities.


The Chazen Museum of Art offers patrons a host of perspectives, exploring the beauty and power of human creativity. Highlights of the collection include the glorious oils, frescoes and other artwork from Europe, Asia and Latin America, with pieces dating as far back as the Middle Ages. There are American works from the 20th Century, ancient and contemporary works from Africa and Asia, ancient Cypriot and Greek antiquities, art from South and Southeast Asia, modern European prints and photographs from the 19th and 20th Centuries, and Native American and Pre-Columbian masterpieces.

From time-honored pieces to modern works, there are numerous notable collections among the Chazen’s trove, including the Schwartz Collection of American Indian Art. This famous collection of Native American baskets, artifacts, clothing and jewelry includes everything from Zigzaagus baskets by Maria Poveka Martinez to the largest collection of beaded clothing from the Great Lakes region of North America.

Another key highlight of the collection is the Alsdorf Galleries of Indian and Southeast Asian Art. Curated by Robert Alsdorf and Thelma Hawkins Alsdorf, these galleries host classical and folk art from India, Myanmar and Thailand, with versatile objects made of stone, terracotta, bronze, stucco, paper, textiles and other materials. There is also the Litt Association Collection, comprised of 20th Century art from the United States, France and Mexico, as well as the renowned Thai barge models exhibit, the David M. to Sara A. Rosidae Philanthropic Collection of Japanese prints, and the Baltic textiles collection.


The Chazen Museum of Art regularly hosts a variety of exhibitions, from its ongoing showcases to special and flash exhibitions. These exhibits inform and educate guests on the works and collections of the Museum, as well as artwork from other countries and cultures, receiving praise from both the local Wisconsin community and more distant patrons.

Special exhibitions at the Chazen include the recent “David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy” exhibition, an in-depth look at the life and considerable artistic output of international legend David Smith. In its October 2020 debut, this special showcase prominently featured Smith’s “cubes”— sculpture works constructed with welded elements of elemental steel shapes—as well as some of his later abstract sculptures. And in December 2020, a surprise exhibition emerged called “Revealing Cultures: A Discovery of Japanese Textiles in Unexpected Places,” featuring clothing and artifacts from the Taisho and early Showa Periods, ranging from tabi socks to fluttering obi.


The Chazen Museum of Art’s educational programs bring art to everyone, regardless of age. These activities are designed to bring feeling to the artifacts and the stories behind them, allowing guests of all ages to experience visual arts at a much deeper level.

The educational programs at the Chazen provide visitors with a unique opportunity to discover art in many forms, from lectures and discussions to hands-on activities such as bookbinding workshops, traditional calligraphy sessions, and sketching classes. Plus, the Museum has a number of virtual programs to explore, allowing you to delve into the wondrous nature of visual arts without even having to leave your home.


One of the most enduring works of art featured at the Chazen Museum of Art is “Garden of Maize’s Prophecy: Blood of Life’’ by noted artist and Native American Elder Helen Hardman. This unique collection of five wooden frames feature intricate paintings and totem poles featuring frogs, humans and black birds – symbols Helen believed to represent supernatural beings that inspired the sacredness of life. She deemed this the Blood of Life and sought to impart an understanding of the need to protect our planet’s resources and strive for peace.


The Chazen Museum of Art offers an array of ways for visitors to take part in the experience. From private tours to free admission on Thursdays, admission is free for everyone. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday and on holidays from 10:00AM–5:00PM, with late nights til 8 on Thursdays, and the parking garage next door offers affordable daily flat rates. An elevator is available to reach the second floor gallery. Many programs are designed with special needs visitors in mind, including programming within the community and in-house resources like audio guides, tactile experiences and sign language/ASL services.

museums in madison wi

Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA)

As Madison’s largest contemporary art museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) offers an alluring experience for lovers of art. Visiting this museum allows you to explore works from both nationally-recognized and local artists in a beautiful, inviting setting. Here, you can learn the stories behind the art and enjoy unique exhibitions.


The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) frequently hosts interesting exhibitions. A current example is the Edible Art exhibition, which showcases food-inspired artwork from across the country. It gives visitors a taste of the creativity that can be found within the food industry. If you want to learn more about Wisconsin Culture, MoCA also has a permanent collection of artworks by artists from the state.


MoCA makes sure that anyone interested in the museum is able to explore and learn about art. The museum offers several educational programs for students, teachers, and families. It provides those attending an accessible learning environment, making sure everyone is included. MoCA also offers free admission for people with disabilities.

Cultural Experience

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) goes beyond providing artwork. It is a place where culture comes alive. On the opening night of the Edible Art exhibition, participants were treated to live music that completed the immersive experience. Plus, food-themed programming added to the incredible atmosphere. It was an inspiring event that provided an unforgettable cultural experience.

Visiting The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) allows you to appreciate art while immersing yourself in a unique cultural atmosphere. Whether you are interested in pictures or performance art, MoCA has something for everyone.

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UW Geology Museum

The University of Wisconsin-Madison campus houses a unique museum, the UW Geology Museum. Situated in the center of the campus and within easy walking distance, it’s the perfect place to spend a few hours learning about natural history and the incredible geological features of the area. Whether you’re a local or visiting Madison, the Otis S. Brown Geology Museum is a great destination to explore.

Exhibits of the Museum

At the Otis S. Brown Geology Museum, you’ll find educational exhibits that tell the story of the region’s geology and natural history. From fossils, to dinosaur bones, and exhibits related to volcanology, minerals, and Wisconsin geology, there’s something for everyone here. The museum also holds events featuring rotating exhibitions, lectures and guided tours and hikes to give visitors an in-depth look at the natural wonders of the foundation of Madison.

Great Destination for Kids

If you have kids, the UW Geology Museum is an especially great place to bring them. With interactive exhibits, hands-on activities and the opportunity to get up close and personal with real fossils, kids can learn and have a great time at the same time.

Special Events and Programs

Planning a visit to the UW Geology Museum? The museum hosts special events throughout the year, allowing you to explore and learn even more about the campus’ geology and natural history. Past events have included rotating exhibitions, lectures, docent-led tours and field trips to other geological sites. Be sure to check out the museum’s website before your visit to see what events and programs are currently on offer.

Visiting the Museum

Admission to the Otis S. Brown Geology Museum is free for all visitors, although donations are gratefully accepted. The museum is open during the school year from Monday to Friday between 10AM and 5PM, and during the summer from Tuesday to Friday with the same opening hours. Tickets are not required, but visitors are encouraged to register online to receive updates about upcoming events and programs.

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Wisconsin Veterans Museum

I recently had the pleasure of visiting one of Madison’s best museums, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. Established in 1998, it is the only museum in Wisconsin dedicated exclusively to the stories and sacrifices of Wisconsin Veterans.

The museum offers a combination of fascinating artifacts, interactive educational activities, and special events. On display are some 300-year-old war muskets, and artifacts from all over the world. Visitors also have the opportunity to hear and read about the lives of Wisconsin veterans, such as Master Sergeant Valerius M. Condello and Senator Robert La Follette.

The museum’s educational programs help to bring the stories and sacrifices of Wisconsin Veterans to life. They offer a variety of workshops, oral histories, panel discussions and role-playing simulations. All of these activities are tailored to meet local, state, and national education standards.

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum also offers family programs throughout the year, during which children and adults alike can explore the artifacts, learn more about veterans’ service and sacrifice, and participate in simulations. Special events are also held throughout the year. Among the most popular are Living History Days, performances, lectures, and workshops. The museum also holds an annual commemoration day and celebration honoring the veterans of the state in November.

If you ever find yourself in Madison, be sure to stop by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. With amazing artifacts, interactive activities, and family-friendly programs, this museum is an absolute must-see.

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Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac County

The Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac County is an institution dedicated to the enrichment of the minds and imaginations of children and families throughout Madison, Wisconsin and beyond. The museum provides a safe and fun environment for children to explore and experience the world in exciting ways. The museum has a wide range of interactive exhibits and educational programs that are designed to inspire, educate, and engage.


Established in 2014, the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac County is the brainchild of a group of dedicated individuals who are passionate about children’s education. Their vision was to create an environment where children can explore, learn and have fun. Since its founding, the museum has become a popular destination for Madison-area families and visitors alike.


The museum houses a wide range of exhibits that provide interactive and educational experiences for all ages. From a replica of a 19th-century post office to a real world-size grocery store, visitors can explore and learn about our nation’s history and culture in an immersive way. Other popular attractions include a life-size, steam train from the 1800s, a giant fort playground and a petting zoo.

Educational Programs

In addition to its many exhibits, the museum offers several educational programs such as summer reading programs, workshops, art classes, and field trips. These programs are designed to enrich a child’s learning experience by providing stimulating and practical learning opportunities. Whether its exploring monthly themes, such as African Art or Music, or participating in one of the museum’s Italian-style cooking classes, visitors of all ages are encouraged to explore their creative side.

Community Benefits

The museum is dedicated to supporting the local Madison-area community. It provides enriching learning opportunities by offering field trips, education workshops and educational programs. The museum also provides interactive exhibits to inspire and educate the younger generation, allowing them to develop an appreciation for history and culture.

First-Hand Experience

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac County and it was an amazing experience. My favorite exhibit was the life-size steam train from the 1800s. My daughter and I were able to explore the cab and learn about the engineering behind the locomotive. We even had the chance to pet the petting zoo animals and explore the giant fort playground. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and we left with a greater appreciation for the history and culture of Madison.

White and Black Floral Ceramic Vase on Brown Wooden Table

Alliant Energy Children’s Garden

The Alliant Energy Children’s Garden is a unique public garden in Madison WI. Its mission is to give all children a safe and stimulating place to explore the wonders of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEM). The garden offers many wonderful hands-on activities and opportunities to discover more about the environment.

Examples of STEM Activities

Children’s Garden engages children in a variety of activities to enhance their learning. These activities include a recycling project where children can develop their skills in sorting, identifying and reusing materials. The garden also has a project that brings in local community members to teach about composting and sustainable gardening.

The garden incorporates natural elements into the STEM activities, such as river rocks, native plants and birdhouses. These elements help visitors understand the local environment, and how what we do locally can help preserve our natural resources.

Collaboration with Museums

The Children’s Garden works with local museums such as Madison Children’s Museum and the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison to provide educational programs and events to augment their curriculum. For example, the garden has created a program that focuses on sustainability and conservation. The program utilizes the resources and events of both museums to create interactive, fun activities that teach children about the importance of environmental stewardship.

Encouraging Community Involvement

At Children’s Garden, visitors have the opportunity to take part in specialties programs that offer exciting activities such as campfires, stargazing, birdwatching and sketching. The garden emphasizes the importance of community involvement by celebrating hands-on, experiential learning and encourages visitors to work together in creating a safe, inspiring and healthy environment for everyone.

Power of the Children’s Garden

The Alliant Energy Children’s Garden has been successful in providing a hub for interactive learning and engaging activities. It serves as an educational and community resource for youth, citizens and Madison as a whole. Programs such as recycling projects provide opportunity for children to learn how to reuse materials and to develop their sense of responsibility toward the environment. The museum collaborations create a larger network of learning resources for students and families. And the programs for community involvement open up new doors of opportunity for Madison citizens to come together.

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Conclusion – Make History With Your Next Visit to Madison WI

Madison is the ideal spot for exploring centuries of history and uncovering hidden gems, all while protecting the pocketbook. With a wide variety of museums available – from art and history to transportation, science and nature – this charming city has something to offer everyone.

Visit the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art to explore breathtaking exhibits, such as the annual MMoCA Life Space. Travel back in time at the Wisconsin Historical Museum to understand more about Wisconsin’s past. Appreciate the progress made by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, preserving the history of generations of veterans from across the country.

Madison is an exciting place to discover more about yourself, your state and the world around you. Get hands-on with interactive opportunities at the Wisconsin Science Museum and the Madison Children’s Museum. Learn the ins and outs of local businesses at the Madison Business History Museum. With free or discounted admissions available and plenty of opportunities to uncover history, no day in Madison is ever dull.

Whether you’re looking to stay in your own backyard or experience something new, Madison offers a grand view of the state’s incredible history. Enjoy immersive experiences, art and culture – all in one destination. The next time you’re in town, make sure to add a visit to Madison museums on your bucket list.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Museums in Madison WI

Madison WI has a wealth of cultural offerings for locals, including a variety of museums showcasing art, history, and science. Here, we look at the different museums, admission fees, exhibits on offer, special events, and guided tours you can enjoy in the area. We also discuss the safety protocols implemented at the sites in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What kinds of museums are in Madison, WI?

Madison, WI offers a fantastic array of cultural sites to explore. Some of the most popular and notable options include the Chazen Museum of Art, housed within the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Wisconsin Historical Museum, the Elver Park Nature Center, the Discovery Center Museum, and the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Each museum is unique, focusing on different areas, from art and history to science and nature.

Is there a charge for admission?

For most of the museums in Madison, WI, admission is free for everyone. However, there may be special events or exhibitions that require an admission fee. Many of the museums also offer discounts for students, seniors, and veterans. The Olbrich Botanical Gardens is free for Dane County residents, although everyone else is required to pay a small admission fee.

What kind of artifacts/exhibits can be found?

Madison’s museums have a diverse range of artifacts and exhibits on display. The Chazen Museum of Art houses a collection of 13,000 works spanning a range of art movements, from ancient to contemporary. The Wisconsin Historical Museum offers a vast array of artifacts and exhibits pertaining to Wisconsin’s history and culture, such as archaeological collections, works of art, and period rooms. The Discovery Center Museum features interactive exhibits for kids to explore, such as a crocodile boat and a human body/health exhibit.

Are there any special events held at the museums?

Many of the museums in Madison host special events throughout the year, such as lectures, workshops, artist talks, and family activities. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, for example, frequently holds events such as the Fall Art Party and MMoCA Free Night, while the Chazen Museum of Art holds the Chazen Family Festival and Chazen Museum Paint-In.

Are there any guided tours?

Most of the museums in Madison WI host guided tours which can be booked in advance. For instance, the Chazen Museum of Art offers guided tours of its permanent exhibition and special exhibitions, while the Wisconsin Historical Museum offers tours focused on various themes such as Native American culture, immigration and settlement in Wisconsin, and the exploration of the Upper Great Lakes.

What safety protocols have been put into place due to the pandemic?

To keep visitors safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, museums in Madison WI have implemented protocols including the wearing of face masks and social distancing. Additionally, some of the sites are limiting the number of people allowed in at one time and requiring reservations in advance of visits. Also, many of the museums have put in place additional sanitization measures for all surfaces, as well as contactless payment options.

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Madison WI is a great destination for anyone interested in experiencing a wide variety of museums. From the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum & Library to the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac County and everything in between, there’s something here for everyone. You can discover the local history and culture, or take a journey through art, science and nature. With so many unique and engaging options, it’s the perfect place to explore, learn and make history. With a visit to Madison WI, the possibilities are endless!

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