Elgin Public Museum gearing up for holidays with new director

  • The Elgin Public Museum has promoted education coordinator Sharry Lynn Blazier to also be the museum's director. The museum is gearing up for the holidays with their annual "Touching on Traditions" exhibit and a Winter Solstice program.

      The Elgin Public Museum has promoted education coordinator Sharry Lynn Blazier to also be the museum's director. The museum is gearing up for the holidays with their annual "Touching on Traditions" exhibit and a Winter Solstice program. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Museum assistant Andrew Taylor puts the finishing touches on part of the Elgin Public Museum's annual "Touching on Traditions" exhibit Tuesday.

      Museum assistant Andrew Taylor puts the finishing touches on part of the Elgin Public Museum's annual "Touching on Traditions" exhibit Tuesday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • The Elgin Public Museum director and education coordinator Sharry Lynn Blazier organizes a table that is part of the "Touching on Traditions" exhibit.

      The Elgin Public Museum director and education coordinator Sharry Lynn Blazier organizes a table that is part of the "Touching on Traditions" exhibit. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • The Elgin Public Museum is gearing up for the holidays with their annual "Touching on Traditions" exhibit and a winter solstice program.

      The Elgin Public Museum is gearing up for the holidays with their annual "Touching on Traditions" exhibit and a winter solstice program. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • The Elgin Public Museum's annual "Touching on Traditions" exhibit is mostly complete and up.

      The Elgin Public Museum's annual "Touching on Traditions" exhibit is mostly complete and up. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/3/2021 6:19 AM

The Elgin Public Museum will celebrate the holidays with a familiar exhibit and a familiar name as its new director.

The familiar exhibit is "Touching on Traditions," which opens Saturday and runs through the end of the month.

 

The familiar name is Sharry Lynn Blazier, who was recently tapped to be the new director of the 101-year-old museum. She's currently the museum's education coordinator and will do both jobs.

A lifelong Elginite, Blazier said she remembers spending many evenings with her dad at Lords Park.

"The museum was never open in the evenings," she said. "But he would always say, 'We'll go in there one day.' I never got here with my father."

The museum has been without a director for almost two years and lost its curator over the summer.

"If you don't have a director, it's hard to do things like get grants and make sure people believe you're stable enough to be worthy of a donation," Blazier said. "The title is important. So I said, please give me this title so I can try and make some things happen here."

Blazier said the board plans to begin looking for a curator next year.

Longtime volunteer and former museum coordinator Mike McGrath said the board made the right choice in hiring Blazier.

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"She is such a hard worker and does so much for this museum," McGrath said. "She's very involved in so many things and has a great ability to engage with the community, which is so important for a small museum."

Touching on Traditions, which was canceled last year because of the pandemic, is a long-running annual collection of multicultural holiday artifacts from around the world. The exhibit features Christmas displays, including trees decorated in styles from different countries. There are also displays showing other cultural celebrations like Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Diwali, Loi Krathong and Ramadan.

Unable to make changes this year, Blazier said she plans to evolve the exhibit starting next year.

"This used to be a community event where people would come in and decorate trees according to their heritage or bring things from their culture," she said. "It was a communal effort, a community effort that people fell away from gradually. I want to bring that back next year."

The museum will also hold a Winter Solstice celebration on Dec. 19. People can learn how ancient cultures celebrated the Winter Solstice and enjoy a solstice stroll and music from the Elgin High School Madrigals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Blazier said she envisions community involvement being an "absolutely huge" part of the museum's future.

"A major priority is to get the community back here and truly involved with this museum," Blazier said, adding that she is seeking local businesses to sponsor new exhibits. "We really want to bring this place back to life."

That is ironic for a museum full of dead things, she admits.

"The trick is for us not to go extinct," she said.

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