Madison County Historical Society is embarking on an exciting new capital campaign and needs YOUR help. A revitalized historic museum building with eight large and two small professionally-designed interpretive galleries will tell the story of Madison County. The work has already begun.
Since 1921, MCHS has diligently preserved and interpreted the history of Madison County. The goal of the Madison County Historical Museum Capital Campaign is to raise three million dollars to create a new museum experience. The history of Madison County will be presented through state-of-the-art interactive technology and hands-on educational exhibits.
We hope you will consider making a generous contribution to the campaign so that we can complete the revitalization of the museum building and creation of all-new galleries.
Mission: Opening Doors to Madison County History
Vision Statement: To inspire a sense of place and history for Madison County
The Madison County Historical Society, founded in 1921, is a private non-profit 501.c.3 organization managed by a volunteer Board of Directors whose goal is to collect and preserve Madison County’s historical artifacts, documents and stories. These are made available to the public through a museum and library as well as educational endeavors like the MCHS Speakers Series and an award-winning newsletter. Madison County tax revenues support two full-time and six part-time librarians and curators who provide professional staff for the buildings that house the MCHS collections.
For nearly a century MCHS has worked in partnership with Madison County Government. The County leases the Society’s assets and operates the Museum and Archival Library providing salaries for a professional staff, utilities and other operating expenses. The Society owns all of the buildings and artifacts. The Society pays for materials required to properly archive items in the collections, housekeeping, and various other regular expenses, but their primary financial obligation has been to purchase and complete major renovations to the buildings. For example, 18 years ago the Society added the new Madison County Archival Library to its complex of buildings.
The Society owns a complex of four buildings, three on North Main Street (707-801) and one behind the Archival Library on Second Street. They include a collections center, the museum building, an archival library and a house that will one day be torn down to provide space for library expansion.
The $3 million project calls for both a restoration and a renovation. The museum building was built by Dr. John Weir in 1836 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The exterior of the building will be restored according to National Register Standards. Most notable to passers-by will be the removal of paint from the beautiful Federal-style building.
The interior of the museum will be a complete renovation of the space which will include eight all-new interactive galleries plus two hall galleries. Like many historical societies and museums, the MCHS collection has been passively displayed in a general chronological fashion. The Society has retained the services of a professional designer that will help us organize the collection thematically and transform the exhibits into 21st century displays that will engage visitors with interactive electronic and hands-on activities. For example, interactive maps of population changes, virtual reality tours, narratives of life in early Illinois or travel on the Mississippi River with descriptions taken from early settlers. The majority of the $3 million cost of the project is for the development of the exhibits and galleries.
Yes. The work is scheduled to be completed in eight overlapping phases as funds become available. The first three phases, which included roof, dormer and chimney repair and a new HVAC system, have been completed. Phases Four, Five and Six, wallpaper removal, plaster repair, electrical upgrade, plumbing and window and door replacement, are in progress. Phase Seven is the removal of exterior paint, tuck-pointing, floor restoration and porch repair. Phase Eight is the development and construction of displays for the museum galleries.
This project will be paid for by the Madison County Historical Society. No County funds are involved. The Society has already spent over $600,000 towards completion of the project and is working with a Community Capital Campaign Committee (see list) to raise the funds needed to complete the project.
MCHS hopes to complete the Capital Campaign in time to celebrate the Centennial of the Madison County Historical Society in 2021.
The Madison County Historical Museum and Archival Library offer resources for county residents, former residents, students, educators and visitors looking for information on Madison County history. The library collections owned by the Society include over 10,000 photographs, 1,400 boxes of probate files, hundreds of maps and plats showing early Madison County property owners, thousands of books and family documents like diaries, letters, business records, and other one-of-a-kind source materials like records from a company of local Civil War soldiers. Museum collections have over 20,000 artifacts including Native American and military items, products manufactured by Madison County businesses, portraits, furnishings, clothing, and unique items of special historic value like the piano once owned by Elijah Lovejoy.
While the museum is under renovation, museum materials can be seen in numerous on-line exhibits and in other public facilities. The staff continues to work with the collections, assist in planning exhibits for the new museum and creating new exhibits for the court house display cases. Recent topics for exhibits at the Madison County Courthouse and Administration Building have included an African-American History in Madison County before 1900, labor history, and stories of Madison County resorts. Some of these exhibits are also connected to a related on-line exhibit. During this time the Archival Library remains open to serve the public. Visitors come in person or contact the library by mail/phone looking for information about their families, their buildings, a business, or many other aspects of Madison County history. Students come to learn about the use of source documents or to research a topic for their classroom. Instructors sometimes bring entire classes from SIUE, or local area schools. Whether the visitor is an author researching a book, or a grade school student completing a family history assignment, one thing they all have in common is that they all come to learn, and they all leave knowing something they didn’t know before. Most staff members have spent decades doing historical research focused on Madison County so are especially qualified to assist patrons.
In addition to the artifacts and documents at the museum and library, Society volunteers offer a program of speakers throughout the year and an annual Dining in History event that takes participants to a historic place where they are served a delicious meal followed by a program about the venue. They also offer a number of programs for local organizations and are in the process of expanding their educational outreach programs to bring information to classrooms and organizations interested in programs on Madison County history.
The Society also has benefits for members which include six issues annually of the MCHS News, an award-winning newsletter that focuses on a different aspect of Madison County with each issue. Issues in recent years have explored the history of the Civil War prison in Alton, coal mining, the Flu Epidemic of 1918, and the fate of orphans a century ago in Madison County.