When the Lake County Discovery Museum's relocation is complete later this year, the makeover will feature a new name in recognition of Bess Bower Dunn, an early advocate of local history and woman of firsts.
Whether the official name will include only that of Dunn or also a reference to Lake County is to be determined. Either way, the change is part of an evolving effort to engage the community with a fresh brand, image and message for the facility operated since the 1970s by the Lake County Forest Preserve District.
"This is a one-of-a-kind project for all of us," said Nan Buckardt, the district's director of education. "There's still a lot of planning and detail that has to happen but it's moving."
The museum had been housed at the Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda but closed Sept. 1 and will move to the district's office in Libertyville, a $1.6 million project.
Evaluating the name is the first step in branding, she said. After much discussion and consideration, Buckardt and staff made the case for Dunn at Monday's district operations committee meeting, saying there is a precedent of museums being named after individuals.
"Pretty unanimously, we didn't like the word 'Discovery' on our name," said Andrew Osborne, superintendent of educational facilities. "This is a completely different name, a completely different approach."
Dunn (1877-1959) was the founding member of the now defunct Lake County Historical Society and gathered many items that became part of the museum collection. She was named the county's first and only official historian, Lake County's first assistant probate clerk and one of the earliest genealogists, according to Diana Dretske, museum curator and a Lake County historian.
Dunn was one of the first women in motion pictures, appearing with a friend in an early clip taken by Waukegan inventor Edward Amet. The longest-serving county employee with a 60-year tenure, Dunn also had a passion for photography and captured images of many historic sites while preserving local history through her own research and lectures.
Her choice would provide a meaningful story and show how the museum is connected to the county, Buckardt said.
"This actually gives us an opportunity to create a lot of buzz," she said. "This museum is not like the other one."
After a lively discussion, the staff was directed to talk with the consultant hired to create the brand and develop a message and return with options.
"When I first read that (name) I said, 'Who the heck is this'?" committee member Steve Carlson said. "I admit to initial skepticism but the more I hear it, the more I like it."
Others said the district should be sure any remaining Dunn family members are on board and that the Lake County connection is not lost in the change.
"We're putting none of an emphasis and focus on Lake County, and to not see Lake County included in the name in some way, shape or form, I'm concerned," committee chairman Craig Taylor said.