Dunn Museum chronicling Lake County history to debut in Libertyville
The Lake County Forest Preserve District is back in the museum business 18 months after closing, dismantling and repurposing its long-lived Discovery Museum from its bucolic setting in Wauconda.
The expanded and rebranded Bess Bower Dunn Museum, which presents a chronological walk through Lake County history, debuts at 10 a.m. Saturday at the district's headquarters, 1899 W. Winchester Road, Libertyville.
"This museum gives us the opportunity to really increase the amount of information we can give you about Lake County as a place -- your home," said Nan Buckardt, the district's director of education.
"I view it as the largest project we've done this century," she said.
Named after the county's first official historian, the $1.6 million retrofit of a corporate office space features a 20-foot-long, scientifically accurate model of a Dryptosaurus dinosaur as the showstopping first exhibit visitors encounter.
The model is the only one of its kind and depicts a dinosaur thought to have lived in Lake County millions of years ago. Behind the imposing replica is a mural of Lake Michigan at sunrise that stretches 40 feet and is 9.5 feet high.
All murals in the museum are of Lake County images, and the familiar voice narrating five animated exhibits is well-known broadcaster and Lake County resident Bill Kurtis.
Some of the 200 artifacts on display, such as the replica lotus boat, will be familiar to those who visited during the museum's 40-year run at the Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda. But others, such as an 1873 painting that hung in an Antioch-area house, will not be. The museum has a total of 20,000 artifacts in the collection that will be periodically rotated.
"Arrive curious" is the slogan for the facility, which blends legacy exhibits and materials from the old museum with new interactive features to tell a chronological story of Lake County history and its people and places from prehistoric to modern times.
A giant 420 million-year-old fossil rock helps illustrate the prehistoric era. A full-scale wigwam with artifacts re-created by Native Americans using the actual materials and methods highlights "The First People" era in the county's history.
Next, frontier Lake County is represented by a reproduction of a one-room classroom. It illustrates the importance of the one-room schoolhouses to early settlers as more than learning centers.
Civil War-era exhibits present innovations of the time and ensuing development, as well as the emergence and evolution of the preservation movement. "It (Discovery Museum) didn't tell a story like this tells a story," Buckardt said of the new facility.
A common theme chronicles how the landscape itself has changed and urges residents and visitors to see for themselves. The exhibits include "story maps" using mapping technology that allow visitors to switch back and forth between how various geographic areas once looked and how they are now.
"In each section, we're inviting people to go out to forest preserve properties and to see what it's like in real life," Buckardt said. "We're the only museum to invite people in and then say, 'Get out of here.'"