Work on new Lake County museum nearing finish line
Work on the Lake County Forest Preserve District's renamed, relocated and retooled museum is in the homestretch.
District officials have been dropping reminders of the upcoming reopening, but a big push to attract patrons to the new Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County lies ahead, as conversion of offices to exhibition space at forest preserve headquarters in Libertyville continues.
On a typical day, about 10 front-line staff members are involved in the process, with others behind the scenes working frantically to meet a projected opening date at the end of the year.
On Wednesday, the effort included three carpenters, four painters, an electrician and an exhibits manager.
"It's getting to the (point) we're seeing a lot of progress in a short amount of time," said Nan Buckardt, the district's director of education. "We've circled a date but we haven't landed."
Getting to this point has involved years of planning, cataloging, design and countless other actions in advance of moving the former Lake County Discovery Museum from the Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda, its home of 40 years.
The district closed the Discovery Museum a year ago to devote full attention to providing a more central location and shifting the focus from special exhibits to the land, people and history of Lake County.
"There will be significantly more integration of Lake County's story here than we had at Lakewood," explained Andrew Osborne, the district's director of educational facilities. "They'll have the ability to have a more Lake County-centric experience."
Osborne said about 80 percent of the gallery space in the museum will be focused on Lake County, with the ability to change artifacts and tell different stories built into the design.
The foundation of the work has been the removal of a full-service kitchen, dining area and other elements in the basement of the former Motorola corporate office for a sophisticated and expensive storage system to hold approximately 20,000 items.
The system features specialized shelves and spaces for a galaxy of items, including paper, textiles, weapons and even shoes, all having different temperature and humidity requirements. At $600,000, the intricate system is nearly a third of the $1.6 million building budget.
Museum operations will include classroom space for educators and programs, like historical and environmental education; a public archives and research center; and a special exhibits space.
The museum will features six sections with interactive elements spanning the history of Lake County from prehistoric times to the county's recent urban development.
The centerpiece greeting visitors will be a full-scale model of a Dryptosaurus. The dinosaur model and the landform on which it will stand is being created off-site and will be delivered at the end of the month.
The building entrance features a 35-by-10-foot screen on which a variety of scenes will be projected as a branding tool for the district.
"We want to make it more inviting, less of a corporate look," Buckardt said.