Nunnemacher Decorative Arts Collection

Nunnemacher Decorative Arts Collection
In 1886, a 14 year-old Rudolph Nunnemacher became involved with the new Milwaukee Public Museum when he donated his rock collection. His passion to collect continued through the years, primarily obtaining decorative arts items, guns, and East Asian religious imagery. When he died prematurely in 1900, nearly 2,000 items were willed to the Milwaukee Public Museum, including his housewares and paintings from all over the world. The Nunnemacher Decorative Arts collection has continued to grow through donations to the Nunnemacher Collection.

Glass Cane Portraits

The glass cane mini-portraits are Italian made. Glass cane is a way of stretching glass, making beautiful, colorful, and delicate artwork. The portraits are tiny round pieces of glass with a face of a person in the center. The glass cane portraits in the Milwaukee Public Museum are an example of true artistry and craftsmanship.

Darwin's "Barnacles" book

antique book
This first edition Darwin book, published in 1854, was originally cataloged in the San Francisco Library collection. By good fortune, the book was checked out during the 1906 fire that destroyed the building and made its way to the Milwaukee Public Museum's library a few years later.

Nancy Ekholm Burkert's Valentine and Orson Illustrations

Valentine and Orson Illustrations

The museum holds the sketches, notes, and original artwork that was published in Nancy Burkert's book, Valentine and Orson, the story of twin boys separated at birth; one was raised by royalty and the other by bears. The artwork in this book was inspired by Brueghel in its artistic style, and Burkert was praised for her stunning artwork. Burkert was a long time UW-Milwaukee art professor, and before working on this book, Burkert illustrated Roald Dahl books such as James and the Giant Peach.


Netsuke are artistic toggles that originated in Japan in the 17th century. These little figures of people and animals became a Japanese import to the states as early as the 1860s. They were made of many different materials such as ivory, wood, iron, or gold. Easily imported because of their small size, this factor contributed to their status as a very collectible object in America. In Japan, people used them to hang on the ends of their medicine boxes or on their kimonos.

Museum Street Clock

It wasn't long ago that clocks decorated the streets of Milwaukee. As the city grew, buildings became modernized and development continued; the street clocks were greatly reduced in number. Most clocks were removed as they were an obstruction to urban development. Milwaukee mayor, Sherman M. Becker, known as the "Boy Mayor," found the clocks to be particularly bothersome and took matters into his own hands by ordering their destruction. One morning in 1907, he and a team of firemen destroyed most of the city street clocks.

T'ang Horse

This horse is made of pinkish buff clay and with a painted white slip. Its "cold pigment" colors include rust, orange, pinkish and traces of black. The horse dates to the T'ang dynasty in China which lasted from 618-907 A.D. The horse was extensively restored before it came to the Museum.

Blaschka Glass Works

 Blaschka Glass Works
Known for their precise detail and distinguishing color, the Blaschka glass models are accurate representations of biological specimens. Leopold Blaschka and his son Rudolph, Blaschkas were Bohemian, or Czech, by birth but worked in Germany. The MPM purchased 70 invertebrate glass models which were offered for sale through Ward's Natural Science Establishment, Inc.

Tiffany Lamp

This lamp from "Tiffany Studios New York" dates back to the early 1900s. The four-light lamp contains a glass shade decorated with a grapevine pattern and an antiqued wisteria bronze base. Tiffany lamps were first created in the late 1800s from the design of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany originally created stained glass for windows, and then transitioned to staining glass for lamps. Tiffany glass lamps are traditionally made by hand, not mass produced by machinery, making them an exceptional and unique piece of glass art.

Marklin Armored Toy Train

toy train
This toy train, modeled after an engine car, is equipped with a key wind top, 4 wheels, and the removable top is painted gray with black trim. The Marklin Company, founded in Germany in 1859, once specialized in doll house design, but is now recognized for its toy train craftsmanship. In the late 1800s when Marklin began producing trains, the company created international standards for different gauges and scales for model trains that are still used today.