WISCONSIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Sign of Madeline Island

Explore

Explore

Temporarily closed

for public programming in 2021

Discover lake life and explore the diverse cultures and communities that made Madeline Island home.

About Us

Children looking at an exhibit at Madeline Island

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. Leo Casper opened the Madeline Island Museum in 1958, and his original collection of artifacts documenting the island’s history can still be seen today. Modern expansions were added in 1991 and 1995, adding additional exhibit and gallery space. Come explore the storied past of Madeline Island and one of the richest collections of Wisconsin history.

Things To Explore

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

American Fur Company Building

The oldest building still standing on Madeline Island, this 1835 structure belonged to the American Fur Company. Collections in this building explore how the cultures of Madeline Island co-existed. They reflect the mixing of the French, British, American and Indigenous cultures and reveal how profoundly they influenced each other to create one unique island culture. These influences are still felt today.

Old Jail

Once serving as La Pointe’s jail, this building now houses collections that explore daily living for generations of island residents in the form of the tools they used to make a living. Behind the iron-barred windows of the Old Jail room, you’ll see up close the vast collection of tools and equipment used in logging and lumbering, boat building, commercial fishing, carpentry, and barrel-making.

Inside of the Pioneer Barn where Swedish immigrants lived

Pioneer Barn

Built in the 1890s, this barn was originally used by a family of Swedish immigrants. Today, collections in the barn depict the life of the 19th and early 20th century European settlers. Catholic and Protestant missionary history is represented with a unique collection of artifacts and religious books translated into Ojibwe. Today, Madeline Island is a popular tourist destination, and collections here show how this industry began. You’ll also see objects describing the lifestyles of the well-to-do who spent long, lazy summers at cottages on the island.

Inside of the Old Sailor's Home with a couch and portraits on the wall

Old Sailor’s Home

Built as a shelter and haven for stranded sailors, the Old Sailor’s Home was built by homesteader Olaf Anderson in memory of his brother who perished at sea. Today, the log structure is richly filled with hand-made furniture, kitchen tools and equipment, and textiles and items representing late 19th and early 20th century immigrant life on Madeline Island.Built as a shelter and haven for stranded sailors, the Old Sailor’s Home was built by homesteader Olaf Anderson in memory of his brother who perished at sea. Today, the log structure is richly filled with hand-made furniture, kitchen tools and equipment, and textiles and items representing late 19th and early 20th century immigrant life on Madeline Island.

Inside look of MIM's Casper Center exhibit with pieces hanging on the wall

Casper Center

The Capser Center, a modern exhibit hall added to the museum complex in 1991, 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.The Capser Center, a modern exhibit hall added to the museum complex in 1991, 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.

Image of the Museum from the outside

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.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.

Learn With The Wisconsin Historical Society

Computer on a desk showing a virtual program

Learn With Us Virtually!

Live virtual programs in your classroom or on your learners’ screens!

Building on what teachers and students love about in-person visits to our museums and historic sites, these live, interactive programs will bring creativity, critical thinking, and empowered storytelling into your home or classroom.

Explore Programs

Wisconsin Historical Society Sites

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

Become a Member

Black Point Estate, a view of the tower and the rest of the building, the clouds are beautiful and really frame the building.

Black Point Estate & Gardens

A circus cart on a lawn, bright red, yellow, and orange colors.

Circus World

An old fashioned camera is set up facing a dramatic photo backdrop

H.H. Bennett Studio & Museum

Wood building with antlers attached. A sign reads Museum

Madeline Island Museum

A group of people bail hay out of an old fashioned cart

Old World Wisconsin

Pendarvis house at dusk, orange colored brick and white trim windows and doors. A stone wall lines the house next to the road. The lamp is lit.

Pendarvis

A older white couple holding hands and walking towards the Stonefield buildings

Stonefield

The Villa Louis Manor on a sunny day, victorian architecture on elegant display

Villa Louis

People visiting the Arts and Crafts Fair at Wade House

Wade House

Walking by the Capitol Square

Wisconsin Historical Museum

Inside the Reed School classroom, with vintage desks and a chalkboard

Reed School

The two historical buildings of Wisconsin's First Capital

First Capitol

Learn more about all our sites here!

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