Fact Sheets

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum encourages people of all age groups and backgrounds to visit our nationally recognized, award winning facility. We serve the public in four unique areas. The museum offers instructive exhibits that highlight important events in Wisconsin military history from the Civil War to the present. Secondly, the museum develops educational programs often focusing on a wide range of themes that highlight the role of Wisconsin in shaping our nation’s military history. Thirdly, the museum also operates a Research Center where books, photographic materials, oral histories, and archival collections can be accessed. In addition, the Research Center provides online reference assistance. Finally, the museum cares for and safeguards a large collection of highly significant and unique artifacts associated with Wisconsin’s men and women who served in the military from the Civil War to the present day.

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an active member of the area community. The museum hosts school tours, veterans group meetings, commemorative events, special programs and works closely with organizations like the University of Wisconsin in delivering collaborative programs. The message of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum is one of affirmation. We believe that our educational programs, exhibits, and services contribute to the quality of life Wisconsin citizens enjoy.

WVM Mission Statement
The purpose of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum is to commemorate, acknowledge, and affirm the role of Wisconsin veterans in America’s military past by means of instructive exhibits and other educational programs.

Museum History
When state legislators passed Chapter 125 Laws in 1901 few would have guessed how important that enactment was. The law mandated that state officials establish a memorial dedicated to commemorating Wisconsin’s role in the Civil War and “any subsequent war.” The space was designated the G.A.R. Memorial Hall.

A destructive fire gutted the State Capitol in 1904, consuming many of the Civil War relics and historical materials in the G.A.R. Memorial Hall. Legislators authorized the establishment of another G.A.R. Memorial Hall in 1909. When the new Capitol was completed, the G.A.R. Memorial Hall was rededicated and the Civil War battle flags, which had all been saved from the fire, were publicly exhibited along with other artifacts from the war.

In 1945, Legislators assigned control of the G.A.R. Memorial Hall to the newly created Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, directing the agency to “catalog, restore, conserve, preserve, safeguard, procure additions to the collections, and to display such collections as to make it instructive and attractive to visitors to the State Capitol.”
Exhibits at the G.A.R. Memorial Hall were significantly improved during the 1960s, and by the In the mid-1970s the Museum achieved accreditation from the American Association of Museums Attendance figures reflected the popularity of the museum as visitation averaged 80,000 per year for over a decade, the highest attendance of all Madison museums.

By the 1980s, the demands for space within the Capitol compelled legislators and WDVA officials to seek a new home for the Museum.

Governor Tommy Thompson approved the acquisition of space adjacent to the Capitol in late 1989 and construction began in July 1990, after state legislative review and approval by the city of Madison. The building shell was completed in December. Work began on the museum interior and exhibit fixtures in 1991. Some 20,000 square feet of space was available for the displays, gift store, artifact storage, museum offices, and mechanicals. Ten thousand square feet were set aside for exhibits, ranging from the Civil War to the Persian Gulf.

The establishment of a June 6, 1993 Grand Opening date forced progress and encouraged an on-time completion. On June 6, 1993 the Wisconsin Veterans Museum opened its doors at a new site located at 30 West Mifflin Street, just across the street from its former home in the Capitol.

Since opening, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum has attracted more than 11,000 visitors per month high regard accorded to veterans by a grateful citizenry continue to be embodied in this living memorial.

WVM General Information
Size: 10,000 square feet of exhibit space plus 7,000 square feet of storage.
Theme and Purpose: “The Wisconsin Citizen-Soldier.” State statutes mandate that the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs operates a museum that acknowledges, commemorates, and affirms the historical role of state veterans.
Main Attractions: The museum features dioramas, consisting of life-size figures and painted murals that realistically and vividly portray events in which Wisconsin veterans participated. The dioramas duplicate a variety of environments, from a snow-covered forest to a tropical jungle.
20th Century Gallery: The displays in the gallery depict authentic scenes from conflicts in the 1900s.
  • The World War II area includes dioramas of the Battle of the Bulge in Europe and the battle for Buna in Papua, New Guinea. A Stuart light tank and two anti-aircraft guns are incorporated into the dioramas.
  • To add the aviation element to the displays, the following aircraft are suspended from the ceiling:
          - UH-1 Huey helicopter (Vietnam War)
          - Full-size replica of a Sopwith Camel biplane (WWI)
          - Full-size replica of a P-51 D “Mustang” (WWII)
  • A functional submarine periscope, protruding through the roof, provides a unique view of the State Capitol and downtown Madison.
  • The 19th Century Gallery - Displays in this gallery focus on the role of Wisconsin men and women in the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.
  • The Civil War area has a spectacular diorama of the Battle of Antietam.
  • Artifacts from the 19th century are displayed more effectively than in the former G.A.R. Memorial Hall Museum in the Capitol because of the modern design features in the new museum.
Changing Exhibits Area: Adjacent to the 19th Century Gallery is space for topical exhibits, which change periodically, as well as for traveling exhibits from other institutions.

Museum Statistics
Each year the Museum educates over 30,000 school children and sees over 100,000 visitors.
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.