Permanent Exhibitions

People of the Waters

Grand Opening scheduled for Sept 5, 2017

The new permanent exhibition called People of the Waters explores the region’s richness of prehistoric and early life that spans 13,000 years. The key storyline and interpretive elements of this cutting edge experience were selected based on public input and feedback from a focus group of teachers to link directly to the educational goals of Wisconsin Act 31 that focuses on major curriculum points on the study of the Ice Age, Native American cultures, and the impact of the Fur Trade.

Exhibit highlights include a dynamic 40-foot long artifact display wall representing the cultural history from about 13,000 years ago up to the 1850s, and an interactive longhouse dwelling allows visitors to experience daily life in Native villages. A walk-over archaeological excavation site uncovers the past, an interpretive multi-touch geological map shows how huge sheets of receding ice transformed the landscape from prehistoric times, and a travel and trade exploration station interpreting the history of tribal trade offers an optional trading game feature that visitors can continue to play at home or school. The exhibit also features the work of contemporary Native American artists.

The waterways of this region were like highways, connecting people near and far, and canoes would have been a common sight throughout the Lake Winnebago region during the early historic period. Using centuries-old skills, master canoe builder Ferdy Goode of Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin, built a birch-bark canoe that is identical to the nimble vessels that once slipped through the rivers and marshes of the Winnebago region. The canoe was funded by a bequest from Florence Sarres, a long-standing member who strongly endorsed our mission. It will be featured along with a dugout canoe crafted by Dr. Jeff Behm and UW-Oshkosh students that participated in a field experience class during the spring 2016 interim.

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

People of the Waters Member Premier: Aug 23, 5:00–7:00 pm, featuring a musical performance and presentation by Wade Fernandez! Not a member? Join now for an exclusive invitation to attend this world-class event.

Iroquois Strawberry Beadwork Workshop: Aug 26, 10:00 am–2:00 pm, presented by Karen Ann Hoffman; space is limited to 30 people, and pre-registration is required. Cost is $20 per person, $15 for Museum Members.

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, 1:00–2:00 pm, presented by Dr. Ray Reser, Director of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Museum of Natural History.

Honor Song! A Play: Oct 14, 1:00–3:00 pm, a one-act play 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 will have a major impact on the Museum, the community, and our role in serving students and teachers. It combines science, math, environmental history, heritage and the arts in a captivating interactive format. This exhibition will be the only one in its class in eastern Wisconsin, making the Museum a primary resource for enriching field trip opportunities that align and enhance classroom instruction.

This project would not have been possible without sponsors and private support. Thank you for your commitment to making this innovative exhibition a reality! The Museum extends a sincere thank you to our Major Sponsors: Associated Bank, Alberta S. Kimball-Mary L. Anhaltzer Foundation, John E. Kuenzl Foundation.

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

Conceptual overhead view of People of the Waters, courtesy of Split Rock Studios

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

Flintlock Trade Gun, English-made Northwest musket

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