Wisconsin couple’s ‘Mewseum’ offers ‘rescued’ cat figurines a home


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A display case contains only a small portion of the Mewseum collection of Redner's Rescued Cat Figurine in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.  The museum is housed in the home of Shawn Redner and Hilary Siegel-Redner.  Photo courtesy of Redner's Rescued Cat Mewseum Figurine

A display case contains only a small portion of the Mewseum collection of Redner’s Rescued Cat Figurine in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. The museum is housed in the home of Shawn Redner and Hilary Siegel-Redner. Photo courtesy of Redner’s Rescued Cat Mewseum Figurine

September 7 (UPI) — When Shawn Redner told his wife, Hilary Siegel-Redner, that he wanted to turn their Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin home into a cat figurine museum, she had a predictable response: “What are we going to do?”

Redner’s Rescued Cat Figurine Mewseum held its first open house in 2020, a few years after the couple began amassing their collection of second-hand – or “rescued” – cat figurines.

Redner told UPI in a recent Zoom interview that the collection started out of “boredom.”

“I was just sitting here, and we weren’t doing anything, and I remembered a friend of mine was picking up mushrooms about 20 years ago,” Redner said, “We were getting all those from thrift stores. and antique malls. I said to Hilary, ‘Come on, let’s get some cats!'”

The collection began that day with a dozen cat figurines and a picture they purchased from local thrift stores.

“It’s become our thing to do. We’re pretty lucky to have probably 10 to 15 Goodwills within 50 miles of here, so we can make a whole day out of it,” he said.

The couple said that aside from about 12 items, all of their more than 13,000 pieces come from thrift stores, antique malls and, most recently, fan donations.

Make a “Mewseum”

Redner said he was looking at some of his figurines one day when he suddenly had the idea to open the house to the public.

“I looked around and thought, ‘I’ve got a great idea,'” Redner recalled.

Siegel-Redner was initially skeptical.

“Her mouth opened and she said, ‘What are we going to do?'” he said.

It was the idea of ​​raising donations for local cat rescues that convinced Siegel-Redner that her husband’s plans had merit.

“That’s what brought me on board: fundraising and helping cat shelters,” Siegel-Redner said.

She said seeing the house transform into Redner’s rescued cat figurine reassured her that they were doing the right thing. They installed display cases, painted walls and installed lighting tracks to give the house a museum feel.

‘Crazy Cat Ladies’ and beyond

The Mewseum officially opened in 2020, with open doors scheduled for the third Sunday of each month, or the fourth Sunday if there is a public holiday. Visitors are invited to make a suggested donation of $5, which is entirely donated to cat rescues.

Redner said the couple averaged about 30 visitors per spring open house. He said there is some dip in the summer, but they are less concerned with the amount of visitors than the quality of the experience.

“The response from people has been fantastic. Like, it’s ‘I can’t believe this place is real’ or ‘It makes me so happy,'” Redner said. “We brought a woman here on Sunday who just started bawling.”

The museum attracts a wide variety of visitors.

“We had students, we had a biker here the other day, we had firefighters, we had a girl here with green hair – punk rockers, goth people, all kinds! We had a woman who was here in June, and in July she brought her 90- and 89-year-old parents,” Redner said.

The couple said even small children seemed fascinated by the museum.

“We have four mice in their Sunday costumes hiding among the cats, and if the kids can find the mice, they win a prize,” Redner said.

“Kids love it,” Siegel-Redner said.

Redner said he was “surprised we didn’t get more crazy cat ladies,” leading Siegel-Redner to add dryly, “We got a few.”

The couple said their museum was a unique experience.

“I believe the Cat Museum in Poland has around 2,500 exhibits, and we have this in a room and a half. It’s crazy,” Siegel said.

Redner and Siegel-Redner still buy cat figurines from thrift stores, but much of their collection’s growth has come from donations from visitors and fans who heard about their project through news reports or online.

The collection has grown so large that they now keep thousands of items in storage, which is part of why they are now looking to find a new home at the museum.

Cats and coffee

The ultimate goal is to move the museum out of their home into a cafe, museum, and temporary home for adoptable cats. They said trying to find a new place to house their collection came with its own set of challenges — primarily, trying to find a suitable and affordable property to rent in suburban Milwaukee.

“The whole plan with the museum is that the cafe has to pay the rent,” Redner said. “Coffee and pastries. Because, with the museum, the idea was to always give that money away.”

A larger venue will allow the couple to not only display the figurines, but also tell the stories of where they come from.

“That’s the plan, trying to keep everybody’s business together,” Redner said. “It’s their thing, it’s part of their life. I don’t want to mix it all up and call it a bunch of cats, because it’s a lot more personal than that.”

Another benefit of a new location would be to persuade strangers to visit a museum, as inviting them to tour inside a home can be a tough sell, the couple said.

“I can not do it [sound] as cool as it really is, because it’s just some weird dude telling you, ‘We got a house full of cat stuff,'” Redner laughed.

He said even his own friends are often skeptical until they visit the museum.

“I understand it’s weird to go to someone’s house,” he said. He said he repeatedly asked a colleague to come over, and when they finally showed up. “They’re like, ‘I owe you an apology,’ and I’m like. ‘Why?’ and she said, ‘Well, I thought it was going to be like Accusers.'”

Once visitors saw the inside of the museum, they were hooked, the couple said.

“It probably takes a good hour, an hour and a half to walk through the museum, but if you get addicted to one of the cats, you’re here for quite a while,” Siegel-Redner said.

Redner and Siegel-Redner said they would continue to operate the museum, whether from home or in a new location, for as long as they could.

“At some point we’re going to have like a Willy Wonka contest when we’re too old to do that,” laughed Redner.

He said he would never sell the collection, especially the donated pieces. They would much rather hand over the management of the museum to a new generation.

“Hopefully in 40 years we’ll meet a 20-year-old who’s like, ‘Yeah, cats!’ and I’ll be like, ‘Here, get the message across,'” Redner said.

Redner’s Rescued Cat Figurine Mewseum will hold its next open house from noon to 6 p.m. on September 18. Private tours can be scheduled by contacting the museum on Facebook or emailing [email protected]