Though Milwaukee’s certainly lost manufacturing and industry jobs over the last 50 years, many still consider its working-class heritage part of the ongoing charm. In fact, Milwaukee was the first city in the US to elect a Socialist mayor, and Sewer Socialism gets it’s name from Brew City in part because of its commitment to workers.

Thus, it’s no surprise that attractions in Milwaukee are dedicated to working professionals, with none more all-encompassing than the Grohmann Museum.

Grohmann Museum. All photos by Joe Powell.

Grohmann Museum. All photos by Joe Powell.

The Grohmann Museum is located on MSOE‘s campus in East Town in an impressive glass and brick building. It houses the Man At Work Collection: “the world’s most comprehensive art collection dedicated to the evolution of human work.” We’ve been to a number of other non-traditional museums in the city, but none has been so large or impressive in scope.

A forge worker, cast in bronze.

A forge worker, cast in bronze.

There are thousands of works of art spanning from the 1500s to today, in a multitude of medium: paint, photography, metal-works, porcelain, stained glass, sculpture, tiling…the list goes on. Walking through the front door you’ll be awed looking up or down right away, as the floor and ceiling both feature their own artwork commissioned for the museum.

Ceiling mural depicting some of history's great thinkers.

Ceiling mural depicting some of history’s great thinkers. See the last picture for the floor mosaic. 

Each of the three floors has a slightly different focus. The 1st houses a rotating exhibit space, currently featuring beautiful photography of large metal forges, as well as other art focused on metalworking.

Forge Work: New Photography by Michael Schultz rotating exhibit.

Forge Work: New Photography by Michael Schultz rotating exhibit.

The second and third floors follow with agrarian pursuits and then white collar professions. An interesting note: the focus of some of the artwork from hundreds of years ago, commonly perceived of a less-progressive time, was on female workers and their contributions.

These female hops pickers deserve all the recognition.

These female hops pickers deserve all the recognition.

The crown jewel of the collection, however, is found on the roof. While you’re walking past on the street-level, it may seem odd that there appear to be statues on the building all facing away from the city. In fact, they’re standing guard over a beautiful rooftop garden and seating space.

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There are dozens of statues, all larger-than-life and imposing in their stances, imparting the feeling of pride in their work. The views of the surrounding city are some of the best in the area, too.

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The Grohmann Museum’s Man At Work Collection is impressive, especially considering it started as a private, personal collection of art. Thankfully, the beautiful stories of these workers are now on public display, and you’ll no doubt leave with a renewed appreciation for the work of all individuals.

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The Grohmann Museum is located at 1000 N Broadway, Milwaukee, WI 53202. General admission is $5, students/seniors $3, and Milwaukee County Library Members are free (with library card)!

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