RANDY SHARER | RSHARER@pantagraph.com
The McLean County Museum of History has resided since 1992 in that grand mountain of limestone and marble that is the pillar-festooned McLean County Courthouse, built in 1903.
The museum’s history traces to 1892 when meetings were held to hear presentations on local history. Without solicitation, community members began donating related objects.
By 1904, the collection was big enough to require a curator and the first museum opened on the third floor of the courthouse. It moved to the McBarnes Building in 1922.
The collection had outgrown its confines by 1972 when a fire left the museum homeless for five years.
Today, the 40,000-square foot museum, which preserves nearly 20,000 objects, is nationally accredited, a designation enjoyed by only 3 percent of the nation’s 33,000 museums.
The public has access to more than 15,000 books along with historical papers and images, some of which came from The Pantagraph archives.
This not-for-profit museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday (until 9 p.m. Tuesdays). Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and free for members, students and those under 12.
A frequent award winner, the museum boasts five permanent and two rotating galleries. Among the newest exhibits is one examining Abraham Lincoln's work as an attorney in McLean County and on the Illinois Eighth Judicial Circuit.
The museum, which has 17 paid employees, welcomed more than 27,000 visitors in 2016 on-site and approximately 9,200 off-site.
The 1,200-square foot "Cruisin' With Lincoln on 66" Visitors Center opened on the ground floor in 2015. Outside, a statue of Lincoln makes for a popular photo prop.