Barrington board to write history museum about complaints

Barrington village board members have agreed to craft a letter seeking answers from the town's history museum after receiving complaints, including allegations some visitors were not allowed to examine documents.

Village Attorney James Bateman said at an informal committee meeting Monday night that he'll collaborate on the letter from the elected officials to the Barrington History Museum before it goes to a vote for final approval. The museum is on Main Street in downtown Barrington.

Trustee Jason Lohmeyer said while the village doesn't have any standing with the nonprofit museum, the letter that likely will request explanations about the concerns could be effective.

"It can't hurt, regardless of how enforceable it is," Lohmeyer said. "It is coming from the village. That might spur some response."

Peer Lykke, who was chairman of the 2015 Barrington Sesquicentennial Committee's history work group, said during public comment time that visitors have become frustrated with the museum. He alleged that no one cam access original documents dating to when the area began, such as those from the village and Cuba and Ela townships.

Information about early area families believed to be in the museum are not provided upon request, added Lykke, a volunteer docent at Barrington's White House.

"The Barrington History Museum is a failed institution in our community," Lykke said. "It does not do its job. It does not perform its mission. It does not serve the Barrington community as it was formed to do."

Although Monday's publicly available village board committee meeting agenda listed "receipt of inquiries regarding Barrington Historical Museum," no one from the organization spoke at the session. A message left with the museum was not immediately returned.

Internal Revenue Service records from the 2017 tax year - the most recently available - show the Barrington History Museum reported net assets or fund balances of roughly $1.5 million. Total expenses that year were $140,288, with $78,595 in revenue.

Expenses topped revenue by $111,111 in 2016, according to the IRS documents. Contributions from donors and membership fees are the primary income sources.

Founded in 1967, the nonprofit's mission statement to the IRS is to promote interest in the preservation, documentation and exhibition of Barrington's heritage. It also backs preservation of historic structures.

Part of the museum houses what its representatives have called an extensive archival collection of Barrington photographs, newspapers, genealogies and documents.

In 1999, Barrington officials oversaw the daylong move of the 70-year-old Wichman Blacksmith Shop to the museum grounds. The blacksmith shop, which the village donated to the museum, was lifted from its foundation near Hough and Station streets and moved west.

The blacksmith shop was used as a meeting room adjacent to the old Barrington village hall, which was replaced by the current municipal facility on the same site.

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