Kane County History: Geneva Museum Is Reimagined, Reopened -- And Admission Is FREE

Kane County History: Geneva Museum Is Reimagined, Reopened — And Admission Is FREE

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s post is contributed by Terry Emma, director of the Geneva History Museum. All photos are courtesy of the Geneva History Museum.

Emptying the old shelves in the Collections Storage Room.

The Geneva History Museum is pleased to announce that we have reopened to the public. Free admission will be offered for the remainder of 2021! (Donations are always welcome and appreciated.)

The first people to write on the “Dear Geneva, With Love” art wall.

Thank you for your patience these past few months. What a year this has been for all of us!

COVID closure was very emotional, but it presented many opportunities for GHM to complete grant projects, update the Main Gallery and Gift Shop, and to get organized. Over the past 16 months staff and volunteers worked on a $300,000 grant project for the installation of compact mobile shelving in the archives and collections storage rooms.

The grants were awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Dunham Fund and the Kane County Riverboat Fund.

This project was planned to take place in January of 2021 and cause the museum to close for just three months. Staff and volunteers decided to take advantage of COVID pandemic closure and started to project in June of 2020, following CDC guidelines with temperature checks, masks and social distancing.

Shelf installation by Artistic Storage, Inc..

It took three weeks to move all of the objects and old metal shelves out of the storage rooms and temporarily set them up in rooms on the first floor of the museum. Large objects and furniture were inventoried and photographed during the move.  This was previously an impossible task to perform in the former storage conditions.

With all 50,000 objects moved to the first floor, the empty rooms were measured by the contractor and the shelves were ordered in July, 2020.  While staff waited for the shelves to arrive, they identified and indexed more than 8,000 photographs, and reorganized boxes and files. Volunteers painted the walls with fresh white paint and the floors were painted teal.

The new shelving systems were installed in November, just before Thanksgiving. With increased COVID restrictions, moving the objects back to the lower level was completed by staff only.  Each object was evaluated and the new location updated in the museum’s database. This final stage of the project took months, but time was all we had.

The new shelving system achieved the goals set in the grant proposals, which included increasing accessibility, as well as improving the care, storage and environmental conditions for the former cramped collections and accommodate future growth.

Geneva’s Story

The museum also took advantage of the time to make updates to the 3,000-square-foot Main Gallery, “Geneva’s Story” with a grant from the Fabyan Foundation.

Two additional chapters were added on community service and entertainment. More artifacts and archival images are on display, and videos and interviews are available on a fifth iPad.

Remodeled Gift Shop.

After seven years of fundraising, a Story Booth was built where visitors to listen or record their Geneva stories. Stories may be included in future exhibitions or programs and added to the museum’s archives.

The museum’s Gift Shop was redesigned by volunteer Craig Elliott, with slat wall systems and custom shelving. New inventory has been added and more is on the way.

“Dear Geneva, With Love” logo, designed by Geneva artist, Catherine Tilly

This summer, the museum is partnering with Geneva artist Catherine Tilly for her public art project, “Dear Geneva, With Love.” A large chalkboard wall has been installed on South Third Street, just north of the Geneva History Museum and 5,000 postcards are being scattered throughout Geneva — all with a simple prompt — write a note or draw a picture to tell the world what you love about our community.

This project is a response to the time we’ve spent socially distanced and apart. It’s designed to be an unfolding story of community, a snapshot of history, and a love letter to place — part public art, part marketing and part history.  The temporary wall installation, made possible by Hogan Construction, will remain through Festival of the Vine in September.

Display of the former Erday’s men’s clothing shop.

The project is made possible with support from the Geneva History Museum, Hogan Construction, The Geneva Cultural Arts Commission, and Geneva Foundation for the Arts. Thanks to the Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva for the use of the lawn.

We encourage everyone to visit the museum to enjoy these new additions. Ask the Front Desk volunteer if a staff member is available to provide a behind-the-scenes tour. Tours can also be scheduled by calling the museum at 630-232-4951.

Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. We are excited to show the community these improvements and can’t wait to say, “Welcome to the Geneva History Museum” as you walk through our doors.

Read The Kane County History Series!


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