Wisconsin Historical Society: W. Jerome Frautschi gives $10 million to new Wisconsin History Museum

Madison, Wis. — Madison philanthropist, W. Jerome Frautschi, is donating $10 million to the Wisconsin Historical Society in support of the new Wisconsin history museum. 

“It has always been important to me for downtown Madison to have the cultural vitality that reflects the values of the city’s residents. It has been a pleasure to support projects such as Overture Center, and now the new Wisconsin history museum,” said Frautschi. “The History Museum on its new East Washington Avenue site will join Madison Children’s Museum and the new Madison Youth Arts Center as shining examples of cultural excellence that will attract thousands to downtown Madison each year. I am delighted to support endeavors that have such a significant and enduring impact on our great city and its citizens.”

With Frautschi’s generous gift, the Wisconsin Historical Foundation, the Society’s non-profit fundraising arm, has surpassed $30 million in private donations required to match the $70 million in State funding. The $10 million gift is in addition to $3.5 million previously donated to the new museum campaign by Frautschi, a well-known benefactor of numerous Madison projects.

“Mr. Frautschi has been a longtime friend and generous supporter of the Wisconsin Historical Society,” said Christian Overland, the Ruth and Hartley Barker Director and CEO of the Wisconsin Historical Society. “We are humbled and deeply appreciative of his incredible gift. He is a true visionary, and generations of Wisconsinites will benefit from his leadership in helping to build this exciting new museum.”

The Campaign for a New Wisconsin History Museum is co-chaired by two former Wisconsin governors: Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson and Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. “This is a great and much-needed project for the state of Wisconsin,” said Doyle. “Thanks to Jerry and the generosity of many other private donors, and the support of the Governor and Legislative leaders, we are ready to make the museum a reality. I am very pleased that the new preferred site maximizes the use of state property and serves all 72 counties. Generations of Wisconsin schoolchildren, Wisconsin citizens, and visitors from around the world will visit a world class building to understand our history and hear the stories of this great state.”

“We are deeply grateful to Jerry for this generous gift,” added Thompson. “He has shown time and again his devotion to our great state, and Wisconsin is awfully lucky to have someone like him with such strong foresight. Wisconsin deserves an engaging and inspiring state history museum that tells our wonderful diverse statewide stories. Now we can decisively move forward on this incredibly exciting project.”

The Society has been working towards building a new state history museum for more than 20 years. The new $120 million, 100,000-square-foot museum will more than double exhibition space and include modern technology while providing greater access to the world-renowned collection of the Society, which is celebrating its 175th year in 2021. It will reach and connect people across all 72 counties through distance learning technology and exciting modern exhibitions. It is expected to attract about 150,000 visitors and double student visits to more than 50,000 annually. The new museum will replace the outdated and undersized current Wisconsin Historical Museum, located since 1984 in a converted hardware store at the top of State Street on the Capitol Square. Recently, the Society and the Department of Administration announced a new preferred site for the new museum, located on state-owned property on East Washington Avenue, one block off the Capitol Square.

The project has received financial support from donors in all regions of the state. The Wisconsin Historical Society will identify other early lead donors in the coming weeks and months as the project moves forward.

In the coming weeks, the Department of Administration will issue a request for architectural and engineering services for the museum at the new preferred site.  The Foundation will continue to raise endowment and operating funds as the project proceeds. 

For more information visit wisconsinhistory.org/newmuseum.

About Wisconsin Historical Society
The Wisconsin Historical Society, founded in 1846, ranks as one of the largest, most active, and most diversified state historical societies in the nation. As both a state agency and a private membership organization, its mission is to help people connect to the past by collecting, preserving, and sharing stories. The Wisconsin Historical Society serves millions of people every year through a wide range of sites, programs, and services. For more information, visit www.wisconsinhistory.org.