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Wisconsin Historical Society picks renowned exhibit designer for $120 million museum

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Wisconsin Historical Society Museum

A preliminary concept for the new Wisconsin Historical Society Museum. The society has selected Ralph Appelbaum Associates of New York City as exhibit designer for the project.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has chosen a renowned exhibit designer for its proposed $120 million museum to be built at the top of State Street.

The Historical Society has selected Ralph Appelbaum Associates, an award-winning firm based in New York City, to design exhibits for the four-story, 100,000-square-foot museum, which will rise on the site of the existing, undersized museum at 30 N. Carroll St. and adjacent properties owned by Fred and Mary Mohs at 20 and 22 N. Carroll St.

Since 1978, RAA has created more than 500 projects worldwide that are visited by more than 75 million people each year, the society said in a statement Wednesday.

The firm’s work includes the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, both in Washington, D.C.; the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba; the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, Scotland; and The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Ralph Appelbaum Associates is an internationally renowned design firm that focuses on storytelling,” said Christian Overland, Ruth and Hartley Barker Director & CEO for the Historical Society. “Their extraordinary work engages people in innovative ways and helps them to make meaningful and memorable connections to the world around them. The expertise they bring to this project will enhance our mission effectiveness and position Wisconsin’s new history museum as a national attraction.”

The Historical Society, established in 1846, has one of the nation’s largest collections of North American historical assets and operates 12 museums and sites. But its flagship museum has been housed in the undersized, 42,000-square-foot former Wolff Kubly hardware store building since the mid-1980s.

Supporters have envisioned a new museum for more than two decades.

In October, after a lengthy search, the society announced it would demolish its current museum and adjacent properties for the new facility, and envisioned a stylish structure with a glass facade and rooftop deck offering sweeping views of the state Capitol.

The new museum will more than double exhibition space and is expected to welcome 200,000 guests annually and double the number of visiting students to 60,000. State-of-the-art digital technology will allow the museum to connect online with people from around the world.

“RAA is thrilled to have been selected to contribute to Wisconsin’s new history museum project,” said Ralph Appelbaum, founder of Ralph Appelbaum Associates. “We have long understood the power of design and experience to strengthen dialogue and connections between people.”

The historical society expects to begin the process to select architecture and engineering services in December.

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