Oshkosh has a fascinating history. The community has undergone a number of transformations in its past, from a fur-trading outpost to an important center in the lumber industry to a modern industrial town. Its storied past is told through the exhibits and artifacts that fill the halls of the Oshkosh Public Museum.
The Oshkosh Public Museum has a vast collection. The museum’s collections include 60,000 historic photographs, 1,080 linear feet of archival records and 250,000 objects. Only a fraction of this collection is on display at any given time.
The story of Winnebago County really begins with the Fox and Wolf river systems and Lake Winnebago. The museum explores the ecology of the river system through an exhibit showing the relationship between the plants, animals and people who depend on the wetlands, lakes and waterways for their survival.
The lumber industry was the primary force that shaped the development of Oshkosh. The museum displays photographs and artifacts relating to the lumber industry. One of the most interesting exhibits is the scale model of the Paine Lumber Company, just one of dozens of mills operating in the city at that time. So much sawdust filled the streets of Oshkosh that it was known as the “Sawdust Capital of the World.” (Oshkosh Sawdust Days takes its name from that aspect of Oshkosh’s past.)
The fortunes built in the lumber industry in Oshkosh went on to build other industries in the community, all of which attracted immigrants from around the world. The museum reveals what life was like for these people in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The museum features special exhibitions throughout the year. In February 2014, the museum will host “In Company with Angels,” a set of seven Tiffany stained-glass windows depicting angels representing the seven churches from the Book of Revelation.
The Oshkosh Public Museum itself is part of Oshkosh’s story. The building that houses the collections was the home of the wealthy Edgar P. Sawyer, one of the men who helped build the community. And, the Oshkosh Public Museum itself is the second oldest museum in Wisconsin.
This fall, discover the treasure trove that is the Oshkosh Public Museum. Learn more about the museum.