DANVILLE, Ill. — A lot of history is packed into the Vermilion County War Museum — more than 25,000 artifacts ranging from the Revolutionary War to current conflicts.
“People say, ‘I’ve got to come back three or four times to see everything,'” said Jim Anderson, a volunteer and a board member.
Indeed, the 14,000-square-foot museum is always adding to its collections, as well as rearranging and updating.
“We try to rotate exhibits and keep as fresh as we can,” he said.
In an effort to attract more people, the museum offered free admission to everyone on Sept. 24. Through its association with the Smithsonian Institute, the museum participated in the “Museum Day Live!” event, which offers free admission.
Anderson said the war museum is the only one in the area that participated in the special event.
Amanda Dudich, new director of development, said the museum has so many artifacts that new shelves and cases have been built so the items can be displayed better. Volunteer Bob Hous made many of the display cases and tables, as well as the stands on the ground floor to display uniforms.
The items are now spread out, instead of crammed into a case, so visitors can view them better.
Anderson noted that the museum is getting a lot of donations of photos and paperwork, as relatives sort through veterans’ personal items.
Not only are the items displayed better, but they’re grouped in categories to make the experience better for the visitor.
For example, the women’s military area also has been reorganized, with similar items grouped together. That area on the second floor has numerous uniforms worn by women in the military.
“We’ve got some unusual and interesting things,” Anderson said, referring to the entire museum. For example, workers found a pack of chewing tobacco— now 100 years old — in the pocket of a World War I jacket.
The museum is fortunate to have so many donations, Anderson and Dudich said.
One day, a person brought in a complete WWI Marine Corps uniform and threatened to toss it into a nearby Dumpster if the museum didn’t accept it. The volunteers were happy to take it.
The museum also has a special area with Merchant Marines exhibits, and is looking for items related to the Seabees.
Dudich said the museum, which is located in the historic Carnegie Library building, needs various repairs.
She got the idea to hold a fundraiser featuring a USO show on Dec. 9 at the museum. Tickets will be $20 a person or $30 a couple, and will go on sale next month. Only 100 tickets will be sold.
The event will feature music, both live and recorded, and a silent auction, as well as food. Dudich is looking for donations, such as gift cards, for the silent auction.
She plans to wear a WWII-style Army nurse uniform, and others are invited to dress up, if they want to.
If the debut fundraiser goes well, it will be held next year at a larger location.
The museum, which opened in 1999, has always been staffed completely by volunteers, and enjoys a steady stream of visitors, including many from overseas.
However, many of the volunteers are getting up in age, and sometimes it’s difficult to keep the museum staffed. So, this spring, the museum hired Dudich as its only full-time employee.
A native of Westville, she graduated in May from Marion University in Indianapolis with a double major in history and art history. She had been a volunteer at the museum for three years.
Anderson welcomes Dudich as a full-time worker, noting her youth, enthusiasm, interest in history and computer skills will be an asset to the museum.
Source: (Danville) Commercial-News, http://bit.ly/2cVzxiD
Information from: Commercial-News, http://www.dancomnews.com
This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by the (Danville) Commercial-News.