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Wisconsin Historical Society Granted Authority to Construct New History Center

MADISON, WI — The Wisconsin History Center project reached another significant milestone when the State Building Commission unanimously approved the society's request for authorization to construct the new facility. The approval effectively moves the project into the demolition and construction phase. Demolition is slated to begin in early 2024, while construction is expected to kick off in late 2024 and take just over two years to complete. The Madison Urban Design Commission granted final approval on the Wisconsin History Center architectural design in September 2023.

"This is an exciting moment that is decades in the making, and we appreciate the long-standing bipartisan support for this transformative project," said Christian Overland, Ruth and Hartley Barker Director & CEO of the Wisconsin Historical Society. "The Wisconsin History Center will be a vibrant addition to the state's civic infrastructure for school students, educators, families, and history enthusiasts. It will also drive tourism dollars to the state by providing access to one of the most significant historical collections in the nation."

The new 100,000-square-foot, five-story history center will utilize the site of the former Wisconsin Historical Museum as well as two adjacent properties on Madison's Capitol Square. The facility is expected to welcome more than 200,000 guests annually and double the number of school students served to 60,000. The center will house three permanent galleries, a rotating community gallery sharing local history from across the state, and a changing gallery for traveling exhibits. The society will offer public programming throughout the communal spaces, while extending the center's resources across the state through advanced technology.

"I am also glad to see the approval of funding for the construction of a new facility for the Wisconsin History Center on Capitol Square, which will help ensure this important Wisconsin institution remains a hub of statewide history, education, and outreach for future generations," said Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, who serves as Chair of the State Building Commission.

The society has partnered with an architectural and exhibition design team that includes Ralph Appelbaum Associates as well as Continuum Architects + Planners and SmithGroup. Extensive collaborations with community partners, a 12-member scholarly advisory panel, the Institute for Human Centered Design, and a formal Native Nations Council are also informing the final experience design.

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The design and construction budget for the project will be supported by $112.3 million in state funds and $48.2 million in private gifts.

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