BLOOMINGTON — Work is in full swing on two major projects at the McLean County Museum of History — new landscaping and a new entry for the planned Bloomington-Normal Visitors Center — and a center manager has been named.

Barb Adkins, former Bloomington deputy city manager, has been hired as manager of the the center that will include the exhibit, "Cruisn with Lincoln on 66."  The part-time position started Nov. 1.

"We recruited her," said Greg Koos, executive director of the museum. "Barb Adkins is a person who loves our community and knows the community in a big way. She will be an excellent spokesperson and excellent to speak to the thousands of visitors."

"With my past career responsibilities ... this is a great fit and I still will be involved in the community," Adkins said. "I look at this as a phenomenal opportunity to showcase downtown and its great history of Route 66 and Abraham Lincoln."

Koos said the center's opening target date is summer. It will include information on Twin City and McLean County attractions, shopping opportunities and large exhibits looking at traveling, eating and lodging along Route 66. The popular statue of Lincoln sitting on a park bench that currently sits near the museum's east entrance will be moved to the new plaza.

Work on a new south side entrance into the the Visitors Center is under way, including moving below ground the the large heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit, Koos said.

"We're trying to open it (then entry way) up so there's less of a sense of a narrow concrete tunnel," he said.

The entrance will be handicapped accessible. 

Meanwhile, old evergreen shrubs have been removed from around the building which "cleans up the appearance quite a bit," said Koos.

Burr oaks have been planted on each of the four corners of the lot and crews are installing a new concrete curb that will define new mulch beds between the curb and the sidewalk. Those beds will have low spreading yews, Koos said.

The landscaping is part of the museum's $3 million capital campaign that will finance new interactive first-floor exhibits; an education program endowment; upgrading the museum's computer system, digitizing resources and providing Wi-Fi. So far, the effort has raised just short of 70 percent of its goal — $2,085,140, said Beth Whisman, the museum's development director. In addition to individual and business pledges, 77 percent of the museum staff has pledged money for the campaign, she said.

The museum also has received a $249,000 matching grant from the Illinois Office of Tourism for the visitors center project. 

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