Spring opening set for new Lake County history museum in Libertyville
Opening day for the new Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County will be March 24, the Lake County Forest Preserve District has determined.
The end of 2017 had been a general target for the huge project which involves relocating, repurposing and expanding the former Lake County Discovery Museum.
But the complexity of the move and a desire to have every detail in place for a smooth debut led forest preserve officials to extend the timeline.
That gives leeway to staff who have been working furiously for months on the $1.6 million project.
"We never picked a date because we weren't sure how all the pieces would fall together," said Nan Buckardt, the district's director of education. "As we got going we realized there was a bigger level of complexity."
The former Lake County Discovery Museum operated at the Lakewood Forest Preserve near Wauconda for 40 years until it closed Sept. 1, 2016, in anticipation of the move to the forest preserve district's main office on Winchester Road in Libertyville.
"We're in the final stages and we are working on the exhibits," Executive Director Ty Kovach said. "There's no compelling reason to (open) during the holidays when we wouldn't get the exposure we want."
March 24 is the Saturday before spring break for many area students. And by then, the winter weary are ready to get out and do something different, Buckardt said.
Officials hope the expanded, educational offerings focused on the history, land and people of Lake County will be an attraction for staycationers.
"The construction is nearly done. We've started to install some of the infrastructure for the exhibits," Buckardt said.
The conversion of the former Motorola office building includes an intricate, state-of-the-art storage system for about 20,000 items on the lower level of the building. The museum will feature six sections with interactive elements chronicling the history of Lake County from prehistoric to modern times.
There also will be a classroom for educators, programs and a public archives and research center.
A special exhibits area of about 400 square feet will hold items from various area historical societies and small museums, as part of the Illinois bicentennial observation.
The main attraction, a full-scale model of a Dryptosaurus dinosaur and the landform on which it stands, was created off site. It has been delivered and installed, but is being kept under wraps until the opening.
Meanwhile, numerous other details of the move, such as having signs attached to the exterior of the building, are in progress.
"We're just really excited to have an actual date," Buckardt said.