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Western Illinois Museum Revisits Original Home

Leon Clements
Rich Egger
Leon Clements

The Western Illinois Museum is making sure its own history is remembered.

The museum was first housed on the third floor of Sherman Hall at Western Illinois University, which is where a reception and fundraiser took place to celebrate the museum's roots.

The event included a presentation called Stories from the Past by Museum Board Member Jackie Thompson and another called The Museum Today by Museum Board Chair Lois Lueck. There was also a silent auction.

One of those in attendance is Leon Clements, who helped found the museum in the early 1970s.

“I think the museum shows the heritage of the community and it shows the excitement people have for their heritage,” Clements said.

The museum began a scholarship fund in 2009 that is named in honor of Clements.

Clements said the idea for the museum came from some WIU students who wanted to preserve the history of Grote Hall, which was a dorm that was being closed. They enlisted the aid of Clements, who was WIU's Director of Auxiliary Services at the time.

They opened the museum in 1974. It displayed more than memorabilia from the shuttered residence hall.

“We were able to get a fur trading exhibit,” Clements said. “A really nice display with hides and traps and stretcher boards.”

He said there were also antiques from a drug store, Civil War items, and old radios from the collection of Tug Haddock.

The museum has grown considerably over the years and was moved in 1999 to its present location at the corner of Lafayette and Washington Streets in Macomb's downtown district.

Membership in the museum has increased quite a bit in the past two years, more school children are visiting it, and interns, graduate assistants and other volunteers have helped with numerous projects.

Clements said Curator Sue Scott deserves credit for the success the museum is enjoying.

“Sue Scott is a great, clever, very talented young lady,” said Clements.

The museum's next exhibit, Legacy of Learning: The History of Our Schools, is scheduled to open June 23.

The museum will hold its annual Ice Cream Tasting Festival on Saturday, June 30, 2012, from 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm at The Old Dairy, which is across the street from the museum.

The museum also plans to re-enact a 1921 baseball game between teams from Colchester and Macomb. That event is scheduled for Sunday, July 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm. The location has yet to be determined.


Rich is TSPR's News Director.