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The State of Wisconsin Collection

Wisconsin academy review (Dec. 1989)

View all of Milwaukee Public Museum: A Century of Wisconsin Botany

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The 1990s and beyond

With the twenty-first century only a decade away thoughts turn to planning for the future. The botany section’s mission and goals must address predictions and shortfalls about designed growth and use of the plant collections among a changing society.

Within any tax-supported institute staffing needs are always a prime issue. For the 1 990s botany needs the allocation of two part-time summer assistants to facilitate precomputerization work on backlogged plant collections; these positions could provide herbarium experience for retraining of high school teachers. The botany and geology sections together could also benefit from joint funding to support a shared curator of paleobotany. The museum’s fossil plant collections need much rescue and redirection.

Expansion of the herbarium through either mezzanine construction or installation of compactor-units is also critical. A tripling of lower and a doubling of higher plant storage space will be needed before the year 2000. Before this time both greenhouse and growth chamber facilities and controls will need to be renovated. And botany’s biochemical laboratory should be modified to improve procedures and safety for both organic thin-layer chromatography and protein electrophoretic operations.

MPM plans to acquire a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to be located in the botany section in the 1990s and hire a part-time technician to support pan-museum use. Until then museum staff and students must continue to operate using time available on UW-Milwaukee’s bioscience SEM facility. If the herbarium is to be fully computerized by 2000, then upgrade of MPM mainframe and personal computers’ capabilities is required to permit multiple user access, faster data recall, quality graphics display, improved label production, and safer backup systems.

Botany programming should remain much the same with established courses, club activities, hikes and tours, and annual or seasonal museum events. However, the visiting lecturers program may be broadened to include interdisciplinary plant biology topics; new photodisplays on Australasia and Baja California could be generated from ongoing research; and popular photoguides to common plant groups of the Great Lakes region will likely be produced. National coach tours led by the botany section are also proposed as alternating spring trips to see the Appalachian flora and deserts of the Southwest.

Positive evaluation received on the botanical content of MPM’s rain forest should provide a good start to education’s new 1990s biosciences grade school programs. Also proposed is the development of one or more MPM-sponsored symposia on museums as natural science learning centers for the twenty-first century. Special programs for handicapped visitors to the greenhouse, mushroom fair, and wildflower show may also be created, with outreach versions distributed to hospice care, retirement home, and senior citizen centers. And elements of MPM’s wild yard will probably be transferred to the enclosed Pioneer Village courtyard to eliminate the frontage display which is now suffering abuse from city street people.

The museum s current long-range plan includes support for all these goals via administrative approval of proposed budget and outside funding strategies into the next century. Success will be achieved, however, only if museum marketing is improved and correctly targets both audiences and those news and communications media which readily promote the botanical awareness and plant appreciation found at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

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