Wisconsin’s Aviation Museums

A recent article published by Travel+Leisure (March 14, 2024) named the “Ten Best Aviation Museums Around the US” got us thinking about our many aviation museum visits. The article’s list included two museums that we haven’t visited. Ranked number two is the TWA Museum located in Kansas City, Missouri. Number nine on their list is the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. The others on their list we’ve visited and several of them numerous times. One that we visit very often, ranked number seven on this list, is the EAA Aviation Museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It looks like we have some travelling in our future, we must finish out that list! You can read the article here.

The article also got us thinking about Wisconsin-based aviation museums. There are more of them than you may think! Let’s introduce them to you by location, from North to South.

Richard I. Bong Veteran’s Historical Center
305 East 2nd Street
Superior WI 54880
The Bong Veteran’s Historical Center has a collection of about 15,000 items including uniforms, weapons, equipment, souvenirs, and personal items. The center also houses a military library and an archives containing over 3,000 items. The premiere exhibit is the Lockheed P-38 "Marge". Guided tours are available in several options, researching their archives is also possible. For more information visit their website at bongcenter.org or call 715-392-7151.

We suggest you give yourself some extra time for two side trips. Visit the Richard I. Bong Memorial Airport (KSUW) on Superior’s southeast side. Inside the terminal is an outstanding series of exhibits on Bong, World War II, and the Superior area’s support of the war effort. Be sure to seek out the mural! The second side trip is Bong’s hometown of Poplar. Located southeast of Superior on US Highway 2, Poplar is also the location of his gravesite.

Wausau Downtown Airport (AUW)
725 Woods Place - Wausau WI 54403
Technically not a museum but an outstanding tribute to Wausau area aviation history. Plaques of Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame inductees that hailed from Wausau, numerous aircraft models, and other memorabilia are spread throughout the terminal. The folks at Wausau Flying Service are proud of their local aviation history and it shows!

AUW_JohnChmielPhoto2_2024
Wausau Aviation Hall of Fame - John Chmiel (2024)

EAA Aviation Museum
3000 Poberezny Road
Oshkosh WI 54902
The largest Wisconsin aviation museum with over 200 aircraft on display and more than 20,000 artifacts. Docents are available for guided tours if requested. Adjacent to the museum is EAA’s Pioneer Airport. A 1920s/1930s replica airport, flight operations with period aircraft are conducted weather permitting. We suggest you plan your visit NOT to coincide with AirVenture. You can reach the museum staff at 920-426-4818 or eaa.org/eaa-museum.

Deke Slayton Memorial Space and Bicycle Museum
200 West Main Street
Sparta WI 54656
The museum location, a 101-year-old building which was formerly a Masonic Temple, is home to both the Monroe County Local History Museum and the Deke Slayton Memorial Space and Bicycle Museum. Slayton was born and raised in Sparta which is also the site of the first “Rails to Trails” project in the country and is proclaimed “Bicycling Capitol of America. Themuseum has lots of hands-on activities for young people.

Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin
N6191 Resource Drive
Sheboygan Falls WI 53085
Opened in 2005, the Aviation Heritage Center has greeted thousands of visitors since. The museum’s exhibits begin with a salute to the area’s pioneer aviators – Brotz, Kohler, Thompson, and Waitkus. Aircraft exhibits include a Lockheed T-33, a Douglas DC-3 in North Central Airlines livery, and a North American T-28 as flown by Hmong pilots in support of CIA operations during the Vietnam War. Numerous educational events for current pilots are hosted at the facility. More information is at achw.org

Waukesha Aviation Club Museum
Waukesha County Airport
2525 Aviation Drive
Waukesha WI 53188
Nestled in a room just off the airport terminal lounge is the Waukesha Aviation Club Museum. Exhibits focus on early Waukesha aviators and the airport’s history. The club was founded in 1931 and while they don’t own any aircraft, they have been promoting aviation and aviation safety for 93 years. Learn more about the club and their efforts at wacwi.com/museum

Mitchell Gallery of Flight
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport
5300 South Howell Avenue
Milwaukee WI 53207
The museum is located inside the terminal and before TSA checkpoints. While there is no admission fee there is a parking fee. Exhibits focus on Southeast Wisconsin aviators including Lt Alfred Gorham, Cpt Lance Sijan, Maj Richard Bong, LtCol Paul Dowd, USN Captain James Lovell, BGen Lester Maitland, MGen Thomas Benes, and of course Gen Billy Mitchell. Other exhibits include Hamilton propellors, a model of the Lawson Airliner, and military units based at the airport. Learn more about the gallery at their website.

EAA Chapter 838
3333 N. Green Bay Road
Racine WI 53404
EAA Chapter 838 has a modern facility located on the Batten International Airport in Racine. A large part of that facility is dedicated to its museum. Exhibits focus on area aviators including – Carlyle Godske, Ed Heeden, Jack Jerstad, Alfred Lawson, John Moody, and Pacific J. “Fig” Landremann. Aircraft include WACO Taperwing, Lawson Airliner (scale model), Moni Motorglider, and a Moody Ultralight. A unique aviation themed stamp collection is also on display. The museum is open by appointment or during chapter events. Their website is located at eaa838.org/museum

Kelch Aviation Museum
N2463 Airport Road
Brodhead WI 53520
Ah, the Golden Era of Aviation when time passed slower and runways were made of grass. If that sounds like a time or place you'd like to visit you are in luck! Brodhead is just north of the Illinois border in Green County and its airport has three grass runways and a museum full of 1920s and 1930s aircraft. Oh, and many of them are flyable! The museum also includes cars and trucks of the era. Call them at 608-897-1175 or visit kelchmuseum.org

Like you, we have visited many aviation museums and, we’re guessing here, that your favorites list doesn’t match ours, the Travel+Leisure article or all nine museums listed above. If you have found a real treasure of an aviation museum, we hope you will share it with us. It is because of the work of many – volunteers, paid staff, and donors – that we have so many aviation museums to visit, enjoy, and learn from and that’s the good news. We do, however, feel that each of us must support every aviation museum because – large or small, awe inspiring or maybe less so – each museum lives and breathes on our support.

We encourage you to visit one or, better yet, all nine of the Wisconsin Aviation Museums we have detailed above. If you can’t visit them in person, check out their websites. Click on their donate button and make a donation. If we all give, even a little, we will continue to have museums across the state that tell the story of aviation for future generations.