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State History Museum project gets enormous boost

The next chapter of our state’s history is being written, and the Wisconsin Historical Society has a rare opportunity to deliver an unforgettable modern history museum to celebrate and honor Wisconsin. Photo courtesy: John Hart


The Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison has been working towards building a new $120 million, 100,000 square-foot museum for more than 20 years. The new state history museum will continue the Society’s growth of outreach and education to communities across the state, reach thousands of students and families, become a national destination of history as well as expand access to and democratize the state’s world-class collections.

1912: Oshkosh Equal Suffrage League 4th of July float.

Since 1846, the Wisconsin Historical Society has been Wisconsin’s place for history and one of the world’s most respected historical institutions. Limitations of the current museum —located in a former hardware store on Wisconsin’s Capitol Square —prevent the organization from properly sharing and displaying Wisconsin’s stories and world-renowned collections.

The David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund, a donor advised fund within the Community Foundation, has awarded $1 million to the new state history museum project.

“We are grateful to the Nelson Family Fund for choosing to give to the new state history museum project,” said Julie Lussier, managing director of the Wisconsin Historical Foundation. “This project will ensure that generations of Wisconsinites and visitors from around the globe learn about the significant contributions our state has made to the world.”

Courtesy: Wisconsin Historical Society

The grant is one of 27 totaling $3.8 million awarded this year from the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation. The fund was established in 2017 with an estate gift of $103 million from the late David L. Nelson and his wife, Rita, to the Community Foundation to award grants to charitable organizations reflecting the charitable interests of the couple, including parks, recreation and waterways; education; health care; community services and community centers; and historic preservation, including lighthouses, museums and historical societies.

“Through digital distance-learning technology and relationships with local history groups — like the DePere Historical Society, where the Nelsons were members for 15 years — the new museum will celebrate the unique history and culture of Wisconsin’s local communities,” said Curt Detjen, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “It was an honor to award $1 million to the Wisconsin museum on behalf of David and Rita Nelson and be a catalyst for giving to the project from northeast Wisconsin.”

Learn more here.


Who were the Nelsons? Learn more about the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund and find out more about this couple here.

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