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


Lake Superior Stories that Continue Today!

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About Us

The Madeline Island Museum celebrates all of the cultures who have called the island home. The Ojibwe and other tribes made their home on Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands, 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.  

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 have added additional exhibit and gallery space.

Things To Experience

The original image, created on birch bark by the Ojibwe, was carried by Oshcabawis to Washington, DC, in 1849 when the tribe petitioned US president James K. Polk to adjust boundaries of the 1842 LaPointe treaty. It was intended as a sort of letter of reference, depicting the delegation’s authority to speak for the Lake Superior bands.The animal figures represent the various doodems (clans), determined by family lineage, whose representatives made the historic appeal. The lines connect the hearts and minds of the various doodems (clans) to manoomin (wild rice), signifying the unity of the delegation’s purpose.


Ojibwe Migration to the Place Where the Food Grows on the Water

Welcome to Mooniingwanekaaning, the ancestral homeland of Lake Superior Anishinaabe! Madeline Island has long been a place of courageous travelers. Passages shares the epic journey of the Ojibwe people to the Apostle Island archipelago and beyond. This exhibit highlights passages across time and place that identify the island as a powerful place of connection and a hub of travel.


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.

Core Exhibits

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


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


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


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


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.


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.

Plan Your Visit

to witness Lake Superior stories that continue today!

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

Field Trips

The best day of your school year awaits! Don’t just read about history, experience it! Field Trips at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s historic sites and museums allow students to step into the worlds they’re studying through fun adventures and engaging experiences around the state for grades k-12. 

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.