Permanent Exhibitions

People of the Waters


People of the Waters explores the richness of prehistoric and early life in Oshkosh and the Lake Winnebago region that spans 13,000 years. The key storyline and interpretive elements of this cutting edge experience link strongly with 4th grade curriculum on how the Ice Age formed Wisconsin's natural features, how early people in this region lived, and the impact of the fur trade.

Journey through time and discover how massive sheets of ice, up to two miles high, gouged and transformed the landscape from prehistoric times to what we see today. 

People arrived as the ice receded. Artifacts left behind help archaeologists determine how people lived. A dynamic forty-foot long glass wall showcases an array of artifacts that represents history from Paleoindians through the Fur Trade. 

Walk inside a full-size recreated Oneota longhouse from 1,000 years ago to learn about daily life in a Native village. Uncover the past in a walk-over archaeological dig site, and explore how early people used the region’s diverse natural resources. 

Rivers and lakes were like highways, carrying goods and people across the region. Discover the history of trade, dating back thousands of years, and how materials and goods from around the world made their way to and from Oshkosh. 

Experience first-hand how trading occurred. Play our innovative proprietary Trap and Trade game and test your skills at trading furs. You can also play the game on your mobile device by downloading the free app from the iTunes Store.

The grand opening celebration presents an incredible series of special weekly programs, sponsored by Nevitt Law Office. Mark your calendars!

People of the Waters Grand Opening DaySep 5, official ribbon cutting ceremony at 10:00 am, marked with an introduction and gallery walk led by Museum Director Brad Larson. Guided tours through the new exhibit are being offered hourly from 12:00–3:00 pm.

Ice Age History of the Fox River Valley Region: Sep 9, 1:00–2:00 pm, presented by Dr. William Mode, professor and chair of the Department of Geology at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Native American Medicines Workshop: Sep 16, 1:00–3:00 pm, presented by Misty Cook; space is limited to 50 people, and pre-registration is required. Cost is $35 per person, $26 for Museum Members; all participants will receive a copy of Misty Cook’s book “Medicine Generations.” 

Wisconsin Archaeology Timeline: Sep 23, 1:00–2:00 pm, presented by Dr. Jeff Behm, archaeologist at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Children's Canoe Workshop: Sep 30, 1:00–4:00 pm, a 30-minute gallery walk of The Voices of Native American Art-Telling Our Story exhibit by Karen Ann Hoffman starting at 1:00 pm, followed by a fun drop-in make-and-take craft project.

Weathering the Ice Age – 14,000 years of Native American History in Central Wisconsin: Oct 7, THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED due to a medical emergency. We hope to reschedule this presentation in the near future.

Honor Song! A One-Act Play: Oct 14, 1:00–3:00 pm, presented by Carol O. Smart, granddaughter of Dr. Rosa Minoka-Hill.

Fur Trade in Wisconsin: Oct 21, 1:00–2:00 pm, presented by Isaac Walters, Wisconsin educator, instructional coach, and historic reenactor and consultant.

People of the Waters is a new permanent, long-term exhibition that will continue to inspire visitors for many years to come. The unique nature of this exhibit and the wealth of artifacts and information presented will be a huge draw to all K-12 students, in addition to educators, researchers, and anyone who is interested in discovering more about the region’s cultural history and understanding how past events shape our lives.

The Oshkosh Public Museum is the only museum in the east central region of Wisconsin that offers such a clear-cut educational experience, providing enriching field trip opportunities that align with and enhance classroom instruction.

The Museum wishes to extend a sincere thank you to the many individuals, organizations and foundations for their contributions, for through their generosity this important project was made possible.

A special thank you goes out to the exhibition's major sponsors and contributors: Alberta S. Kimball-Mary L. Anhaltzer Foundation, Associated Bank, John E. Kuenzl Foundation, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, City of Oshkosh, and the Frederick Schattschneider Durow and Marion Hughes Durow Trust Fund

The Museum also extends a huge thank you to our exhibition team and extraordinary content experts for their expert guidance and dedication of their time and talents: Mike and Karen Ann Hoffman of the Menominee Nation Clans Committee, the Ho-Chunk Nation, archaeologists Dr. Jeffrey Behm at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and Dr. Ray Reser at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, geologist Dr. William Mode and paleontologist Dr. Joseph Peterson at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Jack Steinbring, adjunct scholar of anthropology at Ripon College, and Split Rock Studios of Minnesota.

Full-size recreated Oneota longhouse from 1,000 years ago

Replica skeleton of a giant beaver, one of the animals that inhabited Wisconsin as the glaciers melted

Huge set of elk antlers, found in a sink hole near Oshkosh, radio carbon dates from the late 1400s