The mission of the Mining and Rollo Jamison Museums is to continue in the pursuit of excellence in the areas of regional and mining history. To achieve that purpose, the museums are commissioned to be a custodian of the past; to interpret the rich lead and zinc mining heritage of the region, as well as to preserve, interpret, and display the artifacts that define Southwest Wisconsin.
History of the Museums
The Museum Department of the City of Platteville was established in 1964 to collect, preserve, and interpret artifacts and documents relating to the history of mining in the Upper Mississippi Lead-Zinc District. In 1966 the museum acquired the historic Rock School built in 1863, and the museum began the development of exhibits and public programs.
In 1972, museum staff located the long-closed Bevans Lead Mine just south of the Museum. A city referendum approved funding the excavation of the mine and, in 1976, the mine and headframe were opened to the public. The Platteville Optimists raised funds to acquire a 1931 mine locomotive which they donated to the museum. The train and passenger cars were rebuilt, and in 1978 aboveground train rides became a part of the mine tour. Today the Mining Museum is the largest museum interpreting the tri-state mining district to residents, students, and travelers.
The Rollo Jamison Museum began in Beetown, Wisconsin as a private collection of Rollo Jamison. Jamison collected artifacts of Southwest Wisconsin history for over 70 years. No longer able to care for his collection due to his age, Jamison offered it to the City. In 1980, Platteville’s City Council accepted the collection. The Rollo Jamison Museum is located in Platteville’s first high school built in 1905. The collections were studied, interpretive exhibits developed, educational programs instituted and the Rollo Jamison Museum opened to the public in 1981. Since then additional artifacts have been donated by area citizens eager to see that local history is preserved and that this story is available to area school children, residents, and visitors.
The Jamison Museum Association (JMA) formed in 1980 as a volunteer support group to assist the Rollo Jamison Museum. The group’s first large project was to inventory and move the entire collection from Beetown to Platteville. The JMA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that organized fund raising for the museum. The JMA is active in exhibit development and assists with special events and programs such as Heritage Day and the Christmas exhibit. The JMA also provides essential volunteers who work in a wide range of activities.
The two museums are administered by the City of Platteville Museum Department under the direction of the Museum Board and City Council.