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Rough wood walls, some painted white, some their original color are lined with artefacts from early settler history in Madeline Island. Pioneer Home and part of the Religious exhibit at Madeline Island Museum

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Lake Superior Stories that Continue Today!

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Throughout history, Madeline Island has been home to many cultures. The largest of the Apostle Islands, the Ojibwe (Chippewa), and other tribes made their home here for hundreds of years before European contact. The island was also one of the earliest areas of European exploration and settlement in the interior of North America, serving as a post for the fur trade, commercial fishing, and missionary activities. French, British, and American outposts were established on the island, each bringing unique cultural influences.

The Madeline Island Museum celebrates all of these cultures. Bella and Leo Capser opened the Madeline Island Museum in 1958, and their original collection of artifacts documenting the island’s history can still be seen today. Modern expansions were added in 1991 and 1996, adding additional exhibit and gallery space.





Things To Experience

Meeting Nanabozhoo

Works by Rabbett Before Horses Strickland

Nanabozhoo, the subject of many of Strickland’s paintings, is a character from Ojibwe mythology who possesses supernatural powers, creating medicines to heal the sick and give assistance to the weak and oppressed. Nanabozhoo visited Strickland in his dreams, inspiring the works.

This engaging exhibit features new works by the internationally recognized Ojibwe artist. It will also incorporate some of the artists’ older work and loans from private collections in conjunction with artifacts from the museum’s collections.

small hands with clean nails use a needle to stitch small golden beads around of a circle of already stitched beads (manidoominensag) on a white cloth backing.
A young Bad River Ojibwe Nation boy proudly shows off his finished beadwork, or manidoominensikaan. It's a floral multi-colored piece with a circular backdrop and a green beaded border.
Billy Jo, Bad River Ojibwe, showcases his finished manidoominensikaan

Oshki-Anishinaabeg: Telling Our Stories with Manidoominensag

In complement to the Nanabozhoo exhibit, this youth beadwork exhibit invites visitors to enjoy the beautiful designs created with manidoominensag (beads). Oshki-Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe youth) from several different bands created this manidoominensikaan (beadwork) exhibit to honor and celebrate the historic and continuous ties to their homeland, called Mooningwaanikaaning, the place of the yellow-breasted flicker birds.

CAPSER CENTER

Special Exhibits are hosted in the Capser Center Gallery, a modern exhibit hall added to the museum complex in 1991. It offers visitors the opportunity to view films about island history, attend lectures, or participate in workshops. The welcome area and auditorium house galleries where changing exhibits feature objects from the museum’s collection and outside sources.

PAST EXHIBIT

Core Exhibits

Fur pelt hanging on the wall next to hunting and trapping equipment

AMERICAN FUR COMPANY BUILDING

The American Fur Company Building, built in 1835, is the oldest structure on the island. Collections represent Indigenous life and the fur trade.

a wall displaying old saws and other tools from the time

OLD JAIL

The Old Jail dates to the late 19th century. Collections in the jail illustrate trades from that time, such as logging, boat building, and fishing.

Inside of the Pioneer Barn where Swedish immigrants lived

PIONEER BARN

The Pioneer Barn was built around 1900 by Gus Dahlin, an island farmer and Swedish immigrant. Artifacts here explore early missionary activity and the lives of early residents.

Inside of the Pioneer Barn where Swedish immigrants lived

OLD SAILOR’S HOME

The Old Sailor’s Home, also built around 1900, was constructed by Olaf Anderson, a Norwegian immigrant and farmer. Objects here focus on 19th-century immigrant life.

THE GROUNDS

See and touch the museum’s larger artifacts including equipment from the Basswood Island brownstone quarry, a boat winch, net-drying rack, and a maple-sugaring kettle. The stockade area is reminiscent of fortified structures built by the French in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Help the Oral History Project!  

Continuing an initiative that launched in 2019, the Madeline Island Museum is working with Bad River Tribal Youth Media to collect oral history interviews that document the island’s history. The goal is to collect as many voices, representing as many cultures and backgrounds, as possible, before these memories are lost to time.  


Learn with the Wisconsin Historical Society

Virtual and In-person Programs

Get ready to give your young learners the best field trip memory of the year. WHS is excited to bring back our popular sensory-rich, wonder-filled, on-site Field Trips at our historic sites and museums. We are also continuing our live, interactive online programs to bring creativity, critical thinking, and empowered storytelling into your classroom!

Wisconsin Historical Society Sites

Madeline Island Museum is one of the 12 historic sites and museums owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Explore all of these sites below.