Determining what to do with the old farm buildings that for 40 years housed the Lake County Discovery Museum will take awhile, but officials say public input will be part of the process.
"There are strong emotions around the buildings, and we acknowledge that," said Ty Kovach, executive director of the Lake County Forest Preserve District, which has operated the museum at Lakewood Forest Preserve near Wauconda. "We're going to be transparent as ever on it."
The museum closed to the public Wednesday. The staff will catalog and pack tens of thousands of artifacts and other materials for the eventual move to the district's headquarters in a Libertyville office park, where work is underway to accommodate the collections. The process will take about a year, with an expanded museum expected to reopen in late 2017.
The museum, the district's largest, opened in 1976 in what are now 80-year-old buildings. The name "Lakewood Farm" was registered in 1939 by Chicago contractor Malcolm Boyle and became a showplace with Guernsey cows, pigs, horses, orchards, gardens and grain production.
The forest district converted some of the buildings for the museum and expanded the facilities in 1992 and 1996. The museum entry is an old bull barn, and the north wing of the complex is a former milking barn. There are also outbuildings, including one that housed the Curt Teich Postcard archives.
District officials say the buildings are subpar in terms of lighting, temperature and humidity and are not appropriate for the museum collection. Relocating the museum has been the plan since the district bought the Libertyville building seven years ago, officials said.
In recent months, however, a group of preservationists has questioned the decision. A Facebook group was formed, and last April, the buildings were included in the nonprofit Landmarks Illinois' 2016 list of Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.
The future of the buildings will be part of the master planning process for Lakewood.
"I think what people really need to keep in mind is there are two separate things: the museum, which is the collections, and the buildings, which are the master plan," forest board President Ann Maine said.
A schedule has not been set, but the plan will involve a variety of considerations, Kovach said.
"We've been getting feedback from different organizations (and will be) taking that all into account," he said.
The museum operation was rebranded in 2000 and a massive likeness of an American mastodon placed in front of the building. Incorporated in the museum's logo, the unnamed mastodon is popular with visitors.
Where will she end up?
"We don't have an exact plan for her yet, but there will be a plan," said Andrew Osborne, superintendent of educational facilities. "We have some fun ideas."