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Central Library's Arts & Media Department

Central Library
Arts & Media Department, 2nd floor
(414) 286-3071

Entrance into the Art, Music & Recreation RoomWelcome to the Central Library's Arts & Media Department. Containing materials that run the spectrum of books, media, artwork and ephemeral material in the fine and decorative arts, music, architecture, folklore, costumes, sports and other forms of recreation as well as the performing arts, such as theater, dance, film, radio and television; the Department is representative of the cultural and quality of life activities that help to make life worthwhile. We hope you enjoy perusing the information on the following three units that comprise the Arts & Media Department. If you would like additional information, please call (414) 286-3071. We hope you will call or visit us soon.

Art, Music & Recreation Room

Art, Music & Recreation Room



The Art, Music & Recreation Room contains reference materials on the various genres of the visual and performing arts and recreational activities. The following is a sampling of the special collections within the room:




Architectural Collection
A wealth of architectural material abounds for students and the general public—historical and contemporary, from local to international, traditional and avant-garde. A particular emphasis of the collection has been placed on Frank Lloyd Wright due to his strong ties with Wisconsin.

Auction Catalogs
The library has subscribed to the catalogs of the prominent auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s since the 1960s. They are a unique source containing beautiful color photographs, provenance information and value for numerous treasures of the art world as well as photographs, books, private collections and more. The library also maintains a collection of local auction house catalogs such as Schrager Auction Galleries.

The collection of books on antiques and collectibles is very broad. There are titles on everything from Americana to Zippo. Collectors and appraisers will find an in depth collection that can be used to identify, evaluate and price collectibles and antiques of every kind. Books on marks and fakes further aid the process. Antiques, artifacts, finds, kitsch, memorabilia, rarities or valuables of yesterday and today- whether furniture, glass, jewelry, pottery, toys or virtually any other collectible - all can be researched within the Room.

Sheet Music
The sheet music collection has more than 10,000 donated items dating from 1850.  Most are from the first part of the 20th Century. Available for reference use only, patrons may ask to see pieces such as Climb a Tree With Me by Milwaukee composer Charles K. Harris on through to Candle in the Wind 1997 by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

The Trostel Collection of more than 1,500 plays in German dates from 1865 to 1936 and was used by the German Theater stock company in Milwaukee.  Included are titles by such famous authors as Oscar Wilde, Moliere, William Shakespeare and Leo Tolstoy. Named in honor of Albert O. Trostel, they were donated to the Milwaukee Public Library by his widow, Clara Uihlein Trostel.

Play and Playbill Collections
The playbill collection is comprised of a large number of theater programs from all areas of the performing arts in and around Milwaukee. This includes the Milwaukee Ballet, the various theatre companies in our area and touring companies that visit Milwaukee as well.

Sports Research Collection
This well-rounded historical collection of sports information includes long runs of Spaulding guides covering several different sports, as well as an extensive collection of material highlighting teams from Milwaukee and Wisconsin. We are one of only a handful of libraries in the United States with outstanding Olympic and boxing collections, which includes a complete run of the Ring Magazine.

The work of Wisconsin artists is featured in the Room. The entrance is graced with a mosaic floor by artist Steve Feren. Colorful paintings by Schomer Lichtner and Ruth Grotenrath usher the visitor into the main room. A highlight of the many paintings and sculptures in the Room is a painting of Frank Lloyd Wright done by Lester Schwartz.

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Media Room

Media Room


Central Library's Media Room contains audiobooks on cassette and CD, a film collection and recorded music.



In addition to a wide range of fiction and nonfiction audiobooks on tape and CD, the audiobook collection contains Playaways which are a simple way to listen on the go. There are hundreds of titles; each holding an entire book. Just insert an AA battery, add headphones and press play.

Film Collection
The Media Room contains a large and diverse collection of the finest new and classic feature films, documentaries and educational programs on DVD and video

Recorded Music Collection
The Library features a vast collection of CD’s and vinyl records from a wide variety of musical styles that can be checked out and enjoyed at home. From opera to country and rap to classical, The Media Room is a great place to find great music!

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Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room

Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books RoomThe rarest, most special items are found in the Rare Books Room on the second floor of the Central Library. This beautiful space includes a climate controlled book area and a reception room. It was dedicated in 2001 in honor of Richard E. Krug, city librarian from 1941 to 1975 and his wife Lucile Krug, whose generosity endowed construction of the Room and continues funding for the Krug Educational Program series of lectures.  

Bronze MPL shelf-endsThe Rare Books collection of more than 6,000 items includes pieces of special value, such as signed first editions, books and ephemera published before 1868, artist’s books, maps, prints and other items of local historical or cultural significance. The items below are only a sampling of the materials available.  A complete list of rarities materials is available in the library’s catalog.

The Audubons
The collection contains a complete set of John James Audubon’s Birds of America prints published from 1826 to 1838, one of only about 120 known sets, and a complete set of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Both sets of prints (435 birds and 150 mammals) are kept in climate controlled cases.

Ethiopian Magic Scroll
Magic scrolls were thought to hold protective and healing powers. Their text was often excerpted from the gospels and other sacred books. The scrolls were designed for particular individuals and/or their families. This scroll was produced in 1890.

The Autograph Book
This unique book contains approximately 2,300 signatures of prominent Americans collected between 1896 and 1898 to raise funds for Milwaukee's monument to its Union soldiers, “Victorious Charge.” Signatures were sent by presidents, politicians, artists, authors and other celebrities. Famous contributors include Booker T. Washington, Queen Liliuokiani, Thomas Alva Edison, Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain, who wrote “Do not use your morals week-days. It gets them out of repair for Sunday.”

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili
This book, considered one of the most beautiful books of the Renaissance was published by Aldine Press in 1499. The library is pleased to have one of the few copies of the book in Wisconsin. 

The Frackelton
Among the Library's most beautiful one of a kind treasures is Voices of Friends Concerning John Plankinton, an early 20th century version of an illuminated manuscript commissioned by Elizabeth Plankinton in honor of her late father. Artist Susan Frackelton painted the illustrations and her daughter Gladys lettered the testimonials of his friends.

The Bookworm
The Bookworm by Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885) is the most famous of all his canvases and is frequently reproduced. The donor, Rene Von Schleinitz, gave his collection of German Romantic paintings to the Milwaukee Art Museum, but reserved this one especially for the Milwaukee Public Library.

Artist’s Books
Artists’ books are works of art realized in the form of a book, often published in small editions or as a unique piece. Virtually any materials can be used, including traditional art materials, found objects and photographs old and new.

Japanese Prints
The rarities collection contains a selective collection of Japanese ukiyo woodblock prints from the Edo period (17th – 20th century). These delicate prints depict an evanescent “floating world” of fleeting beauty and temporal pleasures, rather than realistic everyday life. 

Krug Educational Series Programming
To expand awareness and increase enjoyment of the many treasures in the Rare Book Room, Lucile Krug endowed an ongoing series of educational programs.  Past presentations and exhibits have highlighted the Audubon prints, artists’ books, the legacy of Increase A. Lapham, and the lives and works of Susan Frackelton and August Derleth.

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