1860s marriage advice to Black Lives Matter, new Lake County museum donations span decades
Some of the most recent donations accepted by the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County show something doesn't have to be old to be considered historic.
Granted, many of the 21 donations illuminate the lives and times of Lake County's earlier days. But others involve more current events.
"Each one of these items has a special significance, which is why it was chosen," said Nan Buckardt, director of education for the Lake County Forest Preserve District, which has operated a museum since the 1970s.
From an 1860s book with a tie to the abolitionist movement to sketches of Black Lives Matter events last year, the donations in various ways depict the people, places and events of Lake County.
"I like reminding people history isn't 100 years old -- it's this morning, when I got out of bed," Buckardt said.
"Being able to collect and hold significant things of the current time is just as important to us as collecting things from centuries ago."
One of the donations is 48 digital images called "Urban Sketches" by artist Reshma Beeranthbail, an active member of the Urban Sketchers League of Chicago.
Included are sketches of Black Lives Matter rallies in Lake Zurich and Barrington, a Barrington High School student walkout to end gun violence, and general sketches of the Lake County area.
"I carry a little sketchbook and a compact set of art supplies everywhere I go and document my world one sketch at a time," Beeranthbail told the museum staff.
Other items include four medals for World War II Woman Air Force Service Pilots donated by the family of Janice Christensen, a Waukegan native who served during World War II. Christensen was featured in the museum's 2020-21 exhibition "Breaking Barriers: Women in the Military."
"They wrote such wonderful letters to us that their relative was honored in such a respectful way," Buckardt said.
The medals could have gone to the national WASP museum in Texas, she added, but the family thought keeping them local would be a better way to honor Christensen.
A book titled "Affectionate Advice to a Married Couple," given to a couple by the Rev. William B. Dodge of the Millburn Congregational Church, at their wedding Nov. 25, 1862, also made the collections cut.
"I don't know the advice inside but I'm sure there are some gems," Buckardt said.
Dodge was a leader in Lake County's anti-slavery movement. An employee of a resale shop in Fayetteville, Arkansas, found the book where she works. Inside the book was a certificate signed by Dodge.
"She connected the pieces and contacted us," Buckardt said.
A 1954 mortgage title for property in the Wedgewood subdivision in Antioch Township shows an uglier sign of the times. The document includes a restrictive covenant clause, prohibiting the sale or rental of property to Blacks, Asian Americans and Jews. Discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity was outlawed in 1968.
On the lighter side is a stock certificate for the Lake County Rifles semipro football team. The Rifles played in the Central States Football League from 1965 to 1972.
Donations are typically assessed a couple of times a year, but how many and when they are accepted depends on the quality of the items, Buckardt said.
The museum is at forest preserve headquarters in Libertyville. It has about 20,000 pieces in its collection.