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New look for Geneva History Museum

Redesigned museum features gallery opening

Published: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 10:14 p.m. CST
Caption
(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Terry Emma, executive director of the Geneva History Museum, points out some of the intricacies of the city's Bicentennial Quilt. The quilt is on display as part of the museum's new renovations.
Caption
(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
The Geneva History Museum will be open to the public beginning Aug. 23 after undergoing renovations.

GENEVA – Geneva History Museum has a whole new look, with a bright teal main color and a revamped main gallery featuring a timeline of the city’s history, iPads to interact with displays and a theater.

A preview of the new gallery featuring “Geneva’s Story” includes the family tree of James and Charity Herrington when they settled Geneva in 1935. It includes artifacts from a 1992 archaeological dig at the site of their cabin along the Fox River.

The new gallery will be open for free to the public from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 113 S. Third St., but after that, the fee will be $2, museum director Terry Emma said.

“We set the scene with the Indians, and when the Herringtons came and developed a community, created an establishment with a civilized government and with a courthouse,” Emma said.

The display includes a replica of their cabin by the river, but with an actual small rocking chair from their cabin. A family tree shows the Herringtons and their 10 children – including James’ and a child’s death soon after arriving – leaving Charity a widow with nine children to raise.

“We told as much as we know about each of the kids,” Emma said. 

James Clayton Herrington became the first mayor of the fledgling city and the cabin display has his top hat, with his signature inside from Chicago’s Palmer House, Emma said.

The rest of the displays follows a timeline that includes the development of the city’s commerce, factories, its businesses and farming – from hat making to flour to selling shoes.

Genevans’ war service also is on the timeline, including a Civil War jacket.

Early cheerleading and a 1903 letterman jacket from Geneva High School also are featured.

The redone gallery is an $87,000 project over two years, Emma said. It began with a $30,000 donation from The Robinson Family Foundation if she could secure another $30,000 in matching gifts. 

“I made phone calls to our membership, and they came through,” Emma wrote in an email. “I contacted the Fabyan Foundation for an additional $5,000 and the Geneva Lions Club for $1,000. We sent a fundraising letter out specific to this project and secured another $8,700 from more than 70 museum donors.”

But it does not stop there.

Fundraising for a second phase to finish the project, estimated to cost $50,000, has begun, with $2 collected in the donation jar in the main gallery.

The second phase involves completing the recreation section of the gallery and installing a story booth for visitors to record their Geneva Story for the museum’s archives, programming and to share on social media, Emma said.

“Saturday will be a big donation push,” Emma said. “If you give us $100 on that day, your name goes on the wall, and you get a tote bag and museum membership for a year.”

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