Jacksonville Area Museum Gives Sneak Preview Ahead of 2021 Grand Opening

By Jeremy Coumbes on October 11, 2020 at 7:25am

A completed display is viewed at the Jacksonville Area Museum during the Sneak Preview open house event on Saturday, October 10, 2020. The Museum is set to open in summer 2021.

The Jacksonville Area Museum was host to a well attended turn out during Saturday’s sneak peek open house.

Museum Board Chairman David Blanchette says the event was a mile stone in what has been a long and difficult journey to make the Jacksonville Area Museum a reality and breathe life back into the old Jacksonville Post Office building on East State Street. He says the board hopes that the preview will help to keep enthusiasm high for the museum.

We are still nine months away from the official opening, but we thought it’s vital to let people know this museum is moving forward, and we are going to make good on our promise to get this thing open to the public.

Something else that we are trying to do here today is see what the public thinks of some of our concepts. Because we are early in the process, if they don’t like some of the concepts it’s early enough to change them. If they like some, then we can proceed with that particular design element.

So it’s introducing them to the fact that we are moving forward with the museum, but also trying to get their input so they can have some ownership in this facility.”

Eleanor Roosevelt delivers the commencement speech to the MacMurray Graduating Class in 1947. One of many photos on display at the Jacksonville Area Museum during the October 10, 2020 preview event.

Blanchette says anyone who didn’t have the opportunity attend the preview, can still get a peek at the progress soon, via the comfort of their own home.

Illinois Stories, the public television station show is very interested in what we are doing to develop the museum, so they are doing a program on it’s development and they are coming next week to film that. Then once we are open in the summer of 2021and do another show about what it’s like after it is open. So it’s going to be a two part show, to kind of take people through how do you develop a small museum in a small community with an all volunteer board.’

Blanchette says as plans for the grand opening go forward, it is the hope of the board the all volunteer museum will see continued support from the community.

Volunteer organizations always need money, and they always need volunteers. This institution will run at least initially with volunteers. So we hope some of the visitors today will get excited enough to volunteer their time because that is how we are going to keep the museum open.

Another way to keep the museum open is though fundraising and so we hope some of them will donate today, some of them will consider donating in the future. We operate on a shoestring, this is a non-for-profit institution. The community is really profiting from the experience here but also the fact that we are going to bring people into the community and spend money for some economic development. So we hope we get some volunteer help from today and also some donations.”

Blanchette says fundraising is discussed at every board meeting in an effort to come up with new ideas. He says one fundraising idea surrounds some of the museum’s artifacts. He says the museum is home to some artifacts of great value that the public likely is not aware the museum has, and future fundraisers could be centered on the temporary display of some of these items.

Visitors to the preview were able to several items from the museum’s collection, including many from the newly acquired MacMurray collection. Blanchette says the bulk of the MacMurray collection has yet to be moved in.

We have some select items which may or may not be on display when we open permanently. They have a Lincoln collection so we are featuring a lot of that. Two original Civil War diaries are on display. Some iconic things from the college including the college seal, the cross from the chapel, the large mace that was carried every year at graduation, as well as some historic class photos and things like that.

We have some of our own artifacts on display, the former Stice Grocery has loaned us some historic store products for our display. We have one exhibit station completely fished to give people an idea of what those will look like.

We’ve got seven Nellie Knopf paintings that a donor bought at auction and has generously donated to the MacMurray Foundation specifically to be displayed in this museum.

And we are also showing people, what phase two of the exhibit space will look like. You can look through the window and see the space and see some of the bigger artifacts that we can display if we can raise additional funding for that portion of the building.”

Blanchette says the board hopes that everyone who was able to attend the event Saturday enjoyed the experience and looks forward as much as they do to the grand opening next summer, and that the board wishes to thank the Jacksonville community for it’s continued support.

To find out more information about the Jacksonville Area Museum, including ways to donate or volunteer, go to the Jacksonville Area Museum’s Facebook page.