For 100 years, the Oshkosh Public Museum (OPM) has been educating the community. Oshkosh 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. There are countless stories, exhibits and artifacts that fill the halls of the Oshkosh Public Museum.  The OPM collections include 60,000 historic photographs, 1,080 linear feet of archival records and 250,000 objects. Only a fraction of the collection is on display at any given time.



The OPM itself is part of Oshkosh’s story. In 1922 Edgar Sawyer gifted his home to the City of Oshkosh so the beautiful building can be used for the benefit of the public. On November 8, 1924, the museum opened for the first time to the public and thousands of people attended the opening event. This new museum gave Oshkosh “an important feature of a modern city’s life.”


In 1994 the OPM was having routine repair work to the roof’s copper gutters and a soldering torch ignited the wood house frame. While the third floor was engulfed in flames the Oshkosh Fire Department used 750,000 gallons of water to extinguish the major fire. Due to the fire at least 6,000 artifacts were impacted by the fire but they were able to prevent the loss of the Sawyer Home, Apostles Clock, and thousands of artifacts. The OPM spent years rebuilding the museum you see today, the quality and accuracy of the restoration earned the OPM awards from the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation and the American Association for State and Local History. 


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 OPM features special exhibitions throughout the year but this year is different, it is the 100 Years of Impact. The OPM 100 is a tribute to all of the stories, artifacts, and moments that have transformed Oshkosh to the city it is today. To view all of the exhibitions at the OPM click here to see what is on display now and in the feature! 


This fall, discover the treasure trove that is the Oshkosh Public Museum. Learn more about the museum.

Stay the night in Oshkosh—click here for overnight options!