Hitchhiking butterflies and mammoth skeletons at the Milwaukee Public Museum

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Just a few seconds after I walked into the room, the butterfly attached itself to my shoulder, where it remained for a good 10 minutes as I continued my stroll. Maybe it was just drawn to the bright blue color of my hoodie, or to the heavy fabric, but I like to think it was giving me a personal welcome to the Milwaukee Public Museum.

butterfly public museum

The hitchhiking butterfly ensured that I would have a good experience at the museum. How can you have a bad time when you receive such intimate approval from the animal kingdom?

The Public Museum is all about nature and history, so the indoor Butterfly Garden is a great way to get up close and personal with hundreds of winged creatures. The room contains a number of trees and plants, and you can observe the butterflies as you walk past the vegetation. Before you leave the room, you’ll have to examine your body from head to toe in a mirror to make sure none of these friendly critters are trying to leave with you. As much as you might want to take one, they have to stay in their temperature-controlled environment!

public museum butterfly room

Next to the Butterfly Room is the “Bugs Alive!” room featuring all kinds of creepy crawlers. Don’t worry, they’re not roaming free like the butterflies. Look at all these huge cockroaches inside a glass case!

public museum cockroaches

At the top of the steps, you’ll spot a large skeleton of some sort of aquatic beast. It’s actually a 36-foot skeleton of a humpback whale, and it’s lit up like a Christmas tree at the top of the grand staircase, so you won’t miss it.

public museum humpback skeleton

Smaller skeletons of more familiar walking animals sit under the giant whale bones.

public museum skeletons

As you move into the individual rooms, you’ll find recreated environments from places all around the world. There’s a two-story Costa Rican rain forest, a Wisconsin woodlands room dedicated to local wildlife, and lots of African climates and scenes, like these fake rhinos.

rhino room

One of my favorites is the Nigerian room, which displays painted masks and fascinating art from the region.

nigeria room

The famous Moai statues from Easter Island are replicated in another room, which describes the Rapa Nui people and their life on the famous Polynesian island.

All about Cleatus, the lone American crocodile who lived at Dry Tortugas for 14 years

public museum rapa nui

More sights from island culture. Skulls!

polynesian room

I also encountered Native American exhibits and a lot of dinosaur installations at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

And one of the most striking sights is right inside the front door – a cast of a giant hebior mammoth skeleton, found less than 30 miles from the museum.

public museum hebior mammoth


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