Permanent Exhibitions

People of the Waters

Explore the richness of prehistoric and early life 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. 

Play our innovative proprietary Trap and Trade game and experience first-hand how trading occurred. You can also play the game in the gallery, or on your mobile device by downloading the free app from the iTunes Store.

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 information presented is 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. Explore the wealth of artifacts that make up this incredible exhibition through our Virtual Exhibition.

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