Embracing Our Proud Past: Supporting the Work to Preserve Bucyrus’ Legacy Through a New Museum

In many ways, the story of South Milwaukee is the story of Bucyrus, and vice versa.

Fortunately, there is a dedicated group of retirees and others focused on making sure that story can be told for generations.

The group — South Milwaukee Industrial Museum (SMIM) — has already stepped up to preserve many of the artifacts previously displayed at the former Bucyrus Heritage Museum, keeping them in South Milwaukee as they raise money for a new museum to celebrate the mining company’s heritage locally and across the world.

I stand behind this work 100%, and look forward to partnering with this organization to make this a reality. Learn more on the group’s GoFundMe page — and please join me in donating to this worthwhile effort.

You can also check out their work at City Hall in the next few weeks, through a display showcasing many familiar South Milwaukee faces and families, along with some historic Bucyrus artifacts and models of the machines they were famous for.

From the group …

If you’ve not heard of SMIM before, here’s some background. In December of 2016, without notice, the Bucyrus Heritage Museum was suddenly closed by Caterpillar. Caterpillar moved a few of the museum items into storage and shipped a couple of other items to their Mining HQ in Tucson, AZ. They planned to leave 90-95% of what was on display in the museum behind.

With the uncertain future of the collection covering 130+ years of Bucyrus history in South Milwaukee, a group of current and former CAT and Bucyrus employees, some who served as Museum Docents, started discussions with Caterpillar in January 2017. The objective was to keep as much of the archive collection intact as possible. In late March of 2017, an agreement was reached with Caterpillar, and the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum (SMIM) was formed and took control of the remaining assets of the former Bucyrus Heritage Museum.

SMIM received sufficient funding through a grant from the Bucyrus Foundation to cover the cost of hiring the professional movers Caterpillar required. The assets are currently held in private storage. The plan is to continue as a non-profit educational museum and eventually reassemble the original collection of the former Bucyrus Heritage Museum, hopefully in South Milwaukee, which will be open to the public.

They estimate the current funds will support costs through September, and fundraising efforts are underway toward raising enough funds to be able to locate a home and open later this year or early 2019. They efforts currently consist of a GoFundMe campaign, and a mail campaign (PO Box 84, So. Milwaukee, WI 53172) to receive private donations from individuals who wish to support the museums effort. 

Future public archive displays and fundraising efforts are already planned for this year. We hope they are successful in restoring the museum that will once again showcase the history of Bucyrus as the cornerstone of South Milwaukee’s early days.

Proud past, promising future, indeed.


Filed under South Milwaukee

2 responses to “Embracing Our Proud Past: Supporting the Work to Preserve Bucyrus’ Legacy Through a New Museum

  1. Karen Janusiak Wasson

    So happy about the museum. My dad worked there for 42 years. I also worked there for a few years, starting right before graduation in 1967.

  2. Nels Monson

    This is great news! Well done. Hats off to the SMIM group for their dedication to preserving this very important piece of SM’s rich history. From what I understand, the prospective museum would not just exclusively feature Bucyrus’ role in our city’s development, but other industries that were located here as well. And there were a lot of them. Let’s hope they can secure the former Heritage building for the site of what could be a real attraction to our downtown area.

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