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Community pride

Museum Day a collaboration connecting all DeKalb County museums

May 11 is Museum Day in DeKalb County. Eleven museums in the county will be open for visitors.

Participating museums in the southern part of the county include the Sandwich Historical Society, 315 E. Railroad St. in Sandwich, from 1 to 4 p.m.; the Hinckley Historical Society, 145 E. Lincoln Ave. in Hinckley, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and the Shabbona-Lee-Rollo Historical Museum, 119 W. Comanche St. in Shabbona, from 9 to 11 a.m.

“Museum Day is a great idea because it gets the word out about the museums throughout the county,” said Joan Hardekopf, treasurer of the Sandwich Historical Society. “It’s important for people to learn our community’s local history.”

Bob Pritchard, president of the Hinckley Historical Society board, said a countywide Museum Day is “a great way for people to remember and become interested in the past.”

“We tend to forget what came before,” Pritchard said. “There have been a lot of changes through time, and history shows how people managed and responded to those changes. Museums help us remember. They offer a sense of community pride. Each museum has something different and unique to offer.”

In conjunction with Museum Day, the DeKalb County History Center, 1730 N. Main St. in Sycamore, will host a grand-opening celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 11, along with the debut of the traveling Smithsonian exhibit, “Crossroads: Change in Rural America.”

The event will feature activities throughout the day, food trucks and displays of new and old farm equipment.

The new history center unites DeKalb County’s 28 history groups, 16 museums and the Joiner History Room.

Michelle Donahoe, the center’s executive director, described the history center and Museum Day as a collaboration promoting all of the county’s museums.

“The history center sits in Sycamore, the county seat, and was created to partner and connect all of DeKalb County’s history,” Donahoe said. “We want to cross-promote the history and stories of all of DeKalb County, from the Sandwich Fair to DeKalb’s barbed wire.”

Information and historical items from each of the county’s museums will be on display at the center, connecting local history to the Smithsonian exhibit.

“We wouldn’t have a display here at the DeKalb County History Center without the help of the other county museums,” Donahoe said. “Without their help, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate the new history center or the history and items at the other museums.”

The Hinckley Historical Society has a signed basketball from the Harlem Globetrotters and information about the Hinckley Tile Factory on display at the new history center. The factory made tiles that helped drain farmland. The factory, now Hinckley Concrete Company, is still in business and makes items such as bricks, storm sewers and swimming pools.  

“The 1927 Harlem Globetrotters’ game is a source of community pride for Hinckley, and we’ve welcomed the team back to town multiple times to sold-out events,” Pritchard said. “The Hinckley Tile Factory helped make DeKalb County’s farmland farmable.”

The Sandwich Historical Society loaned a corn sheller and push lawn mower made by the Sandwich Manufacturing Company and memorabilia from the Sandwich Fair to the center’s exhibit.

The items came from Sandwich’s four-story Stone Mill Museum. Each floor focuses on different aspects of local history, including farming and agriculture, Native Americans, Sandwich businesses, military, organizations, the Sandwich Fair, schools and life in Sandwich in the past.

“People can spend all day in our museum, just wandering around and looking at what’s on display,” Hardekopf said. “We’re just happy to share some of our items to be included in the big Smithsonian exhibit. We hope it gets people interested in local history and out to visit their local museums.”

For a list of DeKalb County Museum Day participants and times, visit www.dekalbcountyhistory.org.

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