LOMBARD – This might be the perfect time of year to take over as the Lombard Historical Society executive director.
Natalie Gacek arrived in her new position early last month, just a few weeks ahead of Lilac Time in Lombard. The St. Charles native said she was familiar with elements of Lombard’s rich history, but jumping into the job right before the annual Lilac celebration put Gacek on the fast track to a more intrinsic understanding.
“It’s definitely something that defines Lombard,” Gacek said of the festival, which runs May 3 through May 18.
“I think Lilac Time is a fantastic time to get to know more about the community and get to meet the residents and other people who work here.”
Gacek comes to Lombard after 11 years with the St. Charles Heritage Center. She takes over for Jeanne Schultz Angel, who held the position for eight years before recently being named Illinois Association of Museums executive director.
The two had become friends while collaborating through the Kane DuPage Regional Museum Association, Gacek said.
“I know she did a lot of amazing thinks in her time at LHS,” Gacek said of Angel. “She left behind a lot of great things to continue.”
Now Gacek is charged with the task of moving Lombard’s history into the future. Leslie Sulla, Lombard Historical Society’s board president, said Gacek is a perfect fit for the job.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Natalie,” Sulla said. “She’s going to continue the momentum toward more community involvement and for our historical society to become more relevant to the community.”
Making Lombard’s history accessible to anyone who’s interested, regardless of age, is Gacek’s top priority.
Gacek led the Junior Historical Society in St. Charles and hopes to build on the Lombard society’s involvement in the Passport to Adventure Program, which encourages kids to tour museums in Kane and DuPage counties. The region boasts about 60 museums, including the Victorian Cottage Museum and Sheldon Peck Homestead in Lombard, Gacek said.
She said she’s also investigating new afternoon programs for adults who are retired or work from home.
But before Gacek can start implementing a bunch of new ideas, there are several big projects that should keep her busy well into the summer.
In addition to preparing for daily (except Mondays) tours of Lilacia Park during Lilac Time next month, the society is hosting a fundraiser Sunday to benefit the society’s Carriage House Expansion Project.
Gacek and her team also are in charge of putting on the Sheldon Peck Homestead 175th anniversary celebration Aug. 23 to 25.
All of that could be overwhelming, but Gacek is taking it in stride while she tries to absorb as much Lombard history as she can.
“So far I’ve been pacing myself, trying to read little bits of history books,” said Gacek, who credited her staff for helping smooth her transition.
“I enjoy, learning about different communities and the people there. Those are the things that really stick with me.”
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Family: Fiance, Brad Troiani
Education: Bachelor's degrees in human resources management and history from Northern Illinois University