Lake Co. Museum's move will offer more space for unseen items

  • The costume worn by Marlon Brando in the 1952 movie "Julius Caesar" is one of the items museum staff hopes to display.

      The costume worn by Marlon Brando in the 1952 movie "Julius Caesar" is one of the items museum staff hopes to display. Vincent Pierri | Staff Photographer

Posted3/18/2010 12:01 AM

Decades of Lake County history line the shelves in the storage rooms at the Lake County Discovery Museum near Wauconda.

A ship's wheel, baby buggies, metal leg braces, military uniforms, radios, typewriters, kinetoscopes, adding machines and a late 1970s-era video display terminal are among the thousands of items out of public view.


But with an impending move to a new site in Libertyville, some of those curiosities may be seen.

With as many as 20,000 artifacts in the collection, only a fraction on are display. The bigger digs in the new location will allow for more of the historic items to be out in the open.

"We only have about 10 percent of our artifacts on display," said Collections Coordinator Diana Dretske. "Most are in storage here, but we also have two other locations for oversized items, like horse-drawn vehicles."

Even with more display space, museum staff will be picky about what goes public. Dretske said it's not just a matter of putting it out on a table.

She said the item needs to be shown in a historical context, be well researched and include photographs and other supporting documents.

They haven't made any final decisions, but there are a number of items that top the wish list.

"We have the costume Marlon Brando wore in the 1952 movie 'Julius Caesar,'" Dretske said with a smile. "He has Libertyville roots, which makes this a natural choice for display."

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Dretske would like to see the large wooden sign for the former Chicagoland Airport on display. The dark brown, 5-foot-wide sign sits hidden on a metal shelf now.

"Not many people know there was an airport in Lincolnshire that closed in the 1970s," she said. "Lake County has many ties to aviation."

The county also has a legacy of military history with the Great Lakes Naval Training Center and Fort Sheridan.

Dozens of uniforms, boots, flags and other artifacts remain out of sight. Dretske is hoping the items will see the light of day soon.

Museum officials are routinely offered items from the public, but only take pieces that tell tales.

"The item has to tell a story," Dretske said. "It has to have a connection to Lake County's history. It has to be something more than an interesting item."


The Lake County Forest Preserve District approved the purchase of a Libertyville office building that will serve as its future headquarters, and eventually as the home of the Lake County Discovery Museum.

The building, on the southeast corner of Winchester Road and Technology Way, has been vacant since 2008.

It previously was occupied by Motorola. Museum staffers could move in by January 2011 and the museum could relocate in 2012.

The museum move is expected to cost $2.6 million. It will be privately funded and won't happen until all the money is raised, officials said. About $1.3 million already is saved for the project.