DeKalb County History Center Opens Saturday With Smithsonian Exhibit

May 10, 2019

The DeKalb County History Center opens this weekend. It's also the unveiling of a traveling Smithsonian exhibit. 

The Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibit, "Crossroads: Change in Rural America," will be on display May 11-June 22, 2019.

Michelle Donahoe is the Executive Director of the Center. She says it's an opportunity to connect DeKalb County's roots in rural America.

The themes address the identity of rural living. She says the center issued a call for photos, and some of the local photos and artifacts will be on display near the traveling national exhibit.

"One important part of this exhibit is that we want to make history relevant," Donahoe said. "It's not just stuff that happened 200 years ago."

She says localized elements address solar and wind farms, plus the new ordinances that were passed recently in DeKalb County.

She says there are also materials about Native Americans and their connection to the land, and the discussion of the environmental impact study for a proposed casino complex in Shabbona.

Crown from Kirkland's annual Fourth of July parade
Credit Jenna Dooley

"These are current events, and it's a little bit out of our comfort zone," Donahoe said. "But again, we're making history every day and that's certainly part of what we want to do is make this a safe place to have those discussions."

Another theme of "perseverance" highlights community festivals. Artifacts include a crown from the Kirkland Fourth of July parade, a plaque from the Waterman Lions Summerfest, and items from Sycamore's Pumpkin Festival, and DeKalb's Corn Fest.

Once the traveling exhibit is packed up, more local "treasurers," as Donahoe calls them, will take their place, including the high-wheeled bicycle Wally Thurow rode during the Sycamore Pumpkin Festivals.

Donahoe says another new feature will be tours of the history center given in Spanish on Saturdays.

The center is also the new home of the Joiner History Museum, which was formerly housed in the Sycamore Library.

But Donahoe insists the new center is not "one stop shopping." She says it's more like a sampling of all the history found at the various museums and historical societies scattered around DeKalb County.

"This is a fabulous opportunity for lots of collaboration," Donahoe said.