The museum has three floors of galleries where a core collection is displayed along with feature exhibitions. The museum also has a rooftop sculpture garden, a vending cafe and museum store.
It is named in honor of Dr Eckhart Grohmann, an MSOE Regent, Milwaukee businessman and avid art collector, who donated the Man at Work collection (see below) to MSOE in 2001 and subsequently the funds to purchase, renovate and operate the museum that bears his name. It is unusual in that it contains the collection of only one person, Dr. Grohmann.
German artist Hans Dieter Tylle created stained glass, a mosaic atrium floor, a ceiling mural and rooftop mural for the museum.
With over 1100 European and American paintings, sculptures and works on paper that depict various forms of work, the Grohmann Museum Collection is the world's most comprehensive collection of its kind. Captured on canvas and paper or cast in bronze, the works reflect a variety of artistic styles and subjects that document the evolution of organized work, from manpower and horsepower to water, steam and electric power. The collection spans over 400 years of history (17-21st centuries).
Earlier paintings depict men and women working on the farm or at home. Later images show trades people engaged in their work, such as blacksmith, chemist, cobbler, cork maker, glass blower, or taxidermist. The most recent works are images of machines and men embodying the paradoxes of industrialism of the mid-18th century to post-World War II. These works, often commissioned by the factory's owner, are exterior views of steel mills and foundries surrounded by trains and tracks or dark factory interiors where glowing molten metal is juxtaposed with factory workers and managers.
Most of the works in the Grohmann Museum collection are by German and Dutch artists, although others were created by American, Austrian, Belgian, Bohemian, Danish, Dutch, English, Hungarian, Flemish, French and Spanish artists
Artists include: Flemish painter Marten van Valckenborch (1535–1612); Dutch artists Pieter Brueghel the Younger(1564–1638) and Jan Josefsz van Goyen (1596–1656); German painters Carl Spitzweg (1808–1885), Ludwig Knaus (1829–1910), Max Liebermann (1847–1935) and Erich Mercker (1891–1973); American painters J.G. Brown (1831–1913) and F.A. Bridgman (1847–1928); and French painter Julien Dupré (1851–1910).
The inaugural special exhibition Physicians, Quacks, and Alchemists, showed 17th century medical paintings and ran from October 27, 2007 to April 14, 2008, followed by:
-Stone April 18, 2008 - July 14, 2008
-A Focus on Figures July 25, 2008 - October 4, 2008
-American Steel: Works from the Collection of Tom and Lorie Annarella October 17, 2008 - January 4, 2009
-Cradle of Industry: Works from the Rhineland Industrial Museum January 16 - April 5, 2009
-Wisconsin at Work: Thorsten Lindberg Paintings and Drawings from the MCHS Collection April 17 - August 14, 2009
-The Bookworm by Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885) May 15 - October 4, 2009
-Midwest Murals: Joe Jones and J.B. Turnbull from the Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University September 4 - December 6, 2009
-Foundry Work: A View of the Industry, The Photographs of Michael Schultz January 15 – April 5, 2010
-Working Wisconsin: Selections from the Museum of Wisconsin Art April 16 – August 20, 2010
-Wonders of Work and Labor: The Steidle Collection of American Industrial Art, Penn State University September 18, 2010 - January 3, 2011
-Lake Boats: The Photography of Jim Brozek and Christopher Winters January 14 - April 3, 2011
-Milwaukee Mills: A Visual History April 15 – August 21, 2011
-Requiem for Steam: The Railroad Photographs of David Plowden September 23 – December 11, 2011
-Working Legacies: The Death and (After)Life of Post-Industrial Milwaukee December 16, 2011 - February 6, 2012
-H.D. Tylle: Touring Germany and Working in Wisconsin February 17 - April 22, 2012
-Great Lakers: Selections from the Great Lakes Marine Collection of the Milwaukee Public Library May 11 - August 6, 2012
-Carl Spitzweg: The Poor Poet and Other Characters August 20 - December 30, 2012
-MSOE at Work: Selections from the Campus Archives September 7 - December 17, 2012
-Bridges: The Spans of North America - Photographs by David Plowden January 18 - April 28, 2013
-Born of Fire: Scenes of Industry from the Westmoreland Museum of American Art May 24 - August 18, 2013
-A Working Ranch by Jim Brozek September 6 - December 13, 2013
-Trains that Passed in the Night: Railroad Photographs of O Winston Link January 17 - April 27, 2014
-Art Shay: Working May 16 - August 17, 2014
-Erich Mercker: Painter of Industry September 5 - December 14, 2014
-The Art of the Milwaukee Road January 16 - April 26, 2015
-Carl Spitzweg in Milwaukee April 9 - September 13, 2015
-H.D. Tylle: Studies April 17 - June 28, 2015
-Metal for Mettle: Historic Commemorative Medals Honoring Labor and Achievement May 15 - August 23, 2015
-Forge Work: New Photography by Michael Schultz September 4 - December 13, 2015
-Art of the North Shore Line January 22 - April 24, 2016
-Milwaukee's Industrial Landscapes: Paintings by Michael Newhall May 27 - August 21, 2016
-On the Job: Photography by Jim Seder September 9 - December 11, 2016