New Dunn Museum Opens Its Doors
After spending more than a year relocating its vast historic collections and building brand-new exhibitions from scratch, the Lake County Forest Preserves announces the opening of the new Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County, in Libertyville. Dedicated to sharing the entwined stories of people, events and nature, the Dunn Museum provides a chronological walk through Lake County’s history from prehistoric times to the present and invites visitors to explore the land where it happened.
“The Dunn Museum is named for Bess Bower Dunn, Lake County’s first official historian, who did more to preserve Lake County’s history than any other individual,” said Andrew Osborne, superintendent of educational facilities for the Lake County Forest Preserves. “Bess was passionate about preserving the county’s heritage at the turn of the century and personally acquired some of the items that are now part of our collections.”
Prior to closing in fall 2016 and relocating to Libertyville, the Dunn Museum was known as the Lake County Discovery Museum and operated for 40 years out of converted farm buildings at Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda. The new central Lake County location provides more than twice the gallery space for exhibitions about Lake County’s past, dedicated teaching areas, a public research center, as well as convenient access for all Lake County residents and other visitors.
“It took about a year and a half to transition the Dunn Museum to its new location in Libertyville,” said Nan Buckardt, director of education with the Lake County Forest Preserves. “The move provided a rare opportunity for re-envisioning the Museum with a new name and brand, and aligning it more closely with the Forest Preserves 100-Year Vision and Strategic Plan for Lake County. Taking a forward-thinking view, the new Dunn Museum presents a blend of Lake County’s natural and cultural history.”
The Dunn Museum takes visitors on a chronological walk through Lake County’s history using a balance of authentic artifacts, interactive exhibits, reproductions and audiovisual displays. Permanent exhibitions include Prehistoric Lake County, The First People, An American Frontier, Innovations and Preservation and Woodland Theater. A Special Exhibition Gallery will host temporary exhibitions, traveling exhibitions and staff-curatedexhibitions, on topics touching on art, history and popular culture. Each gallery includes an interactive touch screen that directs visitors to different forest preserves to see firsthand where history took place. Galleries also include fun animations narrated by Bill Kurtis, Chicago’s legendary television journalist, that tell stories about Lake County’spast.
Highlights from the Museum’s brand-new exhibitions include the world’s only scientifically accurate, life-sized replica of the dinosaur Dryptosaurus, a giant fossil-covered rock that is 420 million years old, a wigwam replicatedwith guidance from local Native American tribe members, a reproduction of a one-room schoolhouse used by earlysettlers, an authentic Gatling gun and other artifacts from the Civil War era. A special Illinois Bicentennial exhibitionshowcases artifacts from the 2018 book “200 Objects That Made History in Lake and McHenry Counties” including a vaudeville trunk owned by Waukegan native and world-renowned comedian, Jack Benny, on loan from the Waukegan History Museum.
“What is unique about the Dunn Museum is our ability to tell the stories of Lake County’s past and then direct visitors to the exact land where it happened, like the Bonner Heritage Farm in Lindenhurst or the Adlai Stevenson Historic Home in Mettawa,” said Ann Maine, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “We like to consider ourselves a 31,000-acre museum because not only do we own historic artifacts, but also the land from which they came.”
The Dunn Museum offers a variety of educational programs for all ages including school field trips, in-school programs, summer camps, hands-on workshops, guided tours, lectures and seasonal events. School programs encourage group work and critical thinking and are designed to address Illinois Learning Standards. Brand new programs include “Early Life in Lake County” and “Early Settlers of Lake County,” as well as “Make a Museum” summer camp, which explores what it takes to build and operate a museum. The North Shore Gas Education Classroom will serve as home base for education programs and provides smart technology for interactive teaching and presentations.
“We are so excited to offer brand new education programs that are in sync with the Dunn Museum’s exhibits,” said Buckardt. “We are also thrilled to have in-gallery teaching spaces. Students can learn about Native Americans while sitting in a wigwam or about early settlers to Lake County while taking a lesson in a one-room schoolhouse.”
The Teich Family Reading Room provides walk-in access to the Dunn Museum’s special library, genealogical resources and reference materials related to Lake County history. Primary source materials from the Lake County History Archives are available by appointment, and include photographs, postcards, Civil War correspondence and school records. Collections staff can be contacted to assist with specific research requests.
The Dunn Museum is among only five percent of museums nationally to have earned accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, an industry mark of distinction. The Dunn Museum is located in the General Offices of the Lake County Forest Preserves, 1899 West Winchester Road in Libertyville with FREE parking. General admission is $6 for adults, $3 for seniors, $3 for youth ages 4–17 and students ages 18–25 with proper identification, and FREE for children ages 3 and under. Discount admission is offered on Tuesdays. On the first and third Thursdays of every month, admission, and educational programs for adults and families, will be offered for free after 5pm, made possible through a generous donation by the USG Foundation. Visit here for more information, or call 847-968-3400.