Much work done, more to go to reopen Mundelein Heritage Museum

  • The Mundelein Historical Commission is working to reopen the former the Fort Hill Heritage Museum and catalog and protect its artifacts. The debut of the Mundelein Heritage Museum is expected in spring.

    The Mundelein Historical Commission is working to reopen the former the Fort Hill Heritage Museum and catalog and protect its artifacts. The debut of the Mundelein Heritage Museum is expected in spring. Daily Herald photo, 2016

  • Women's clothing from the early 1900s was on display in 2016 at the former Fort Hill Historical Museum in Mundelein. Closed for more than a year, the facility is being revamped as the Mundelein Heritage Museum, with a focus on village history.

    Women's clothing from the early 1900s was on display in 2016 at the former Fort Hill Historical Museum in Mundelein. Closed for more than a year, the facility is being revamped as the Mundelein Heritage Museum, with a focus on village history. Daily Herald photo, 2016

 
 
Updated 11/5/2019 5:58 PM

An effort to rekindle and improve a historical museum in Mundelein is grinding along with a spring reopening planned.

Much is to be done before the renamed Mundelein Heritage Museum is ready for regular public hours, but the list of accomplishments so far is growing.

 

The Mundelein Historical Commission in partnership with the Mundelein Park District have been reorganizing archives, preparing collection and organizational policies, taking inventory and cataloging thousands of items among other tasks to transform the museum at 601 E. Noel Drive.

Help is always needed.

"We're trying to build up a group of volunteers we can rely on for a variety of tasks," said Mike Flynn, the commission's chairman. "That's the big thing."

Docents, researchers, and liaisons with local schools and individuals are among those being sought. So are individuals with Excel software experience in the Office 365 environment, to help complete an inventory of the collection.

Museum updates and discussion of rotating displays are on the agenda for the commission's meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, at Mundelein village hall, 300 Plaza Circle. Flynn said ideas for temporary exhibits will be a key topic at the meeting and public input is welcome. Researching and organizing the exhibits will be the commission's initial foray into as museum curators.

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Along with preparations for a spring reopening, museum leaders also want to finalize new "Deed of Gift" forms to accept donations, which must be approved by the commission and accepted by the park district board.

"Folks want village history," Flynn said. "I think it's things like the model farm, railroading, Diamond Lake, the old downtown, Eucharistic Congress -- then and now type of thing."

The museum has been housed in the former Soo Line railroad depot in a neighborhood park near downtown Mundelein since 1987. It had been run by the Historical Society of the Fort Hill Country, but essentially ceased operations with the death of society leader Dottie Watson in August 2018.

The park district owns the building and the village-appointed historical commission is working to get it up and running in a more organized and structured fashion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The society, though dormant, still owns the items inside. Once it officially disbands the items become park district property.

"We don't want to accept the collection until the inventory is done," said Margaret Resnick, park district director. That will provide a "clean transfer" she added.

The park district has been collecting property tax to maintain the facility. This year it levied $1,000 for that purpose, but is using a surplus in the fund to pay expenses, which will be more than $20,000 this year, Resnick added.

Part of the commission's preparation has been visiting other local history museums in Lake County. One finding has been that only about 10% of items are on display at a given time, Flynn noted.

"We've been focused on thinning out what we have in the building," he said. "We've taken a lot of items to off-site storage."

That work is only about a quarter complete, Flynn added.

Two rooms at the museum building have been cleared and will be painted in a few weeks. Future plans include restoring the depot office to the way it was when it was functional, Flynn added.

"It's a learning curve. (Operating) a museum is a specialized skill," he said.

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