Tuesday, April 30, 2013

And the Mystery Artifact is . . . .

Congratulations to reader sandyoppelt!  You are absolutely right!

Our mystery artifact photo (above) shows three irons sitting atop an iron warmer on the stove in our Prairie Stories exhibit:

 The museum has in its collection irons and laundering artifacts, many of which come from the Shelton Laundry.  This laundry business, which operated for more than 50 years, was for a time was the largest in Illinois outside of Chicago.

It grew from humble beginnings when Arah Mae Shelton decided that she would bring in washing to support her family.  Daughter Frances Shelton Moreland recalled that the employees "were a 'melting pot' made up of Africans, Hispanics, a young man from India (who later married into the family), African Americans, and Caucasians."  She said "Mother left us a legacy . . . .  She took an old black pot, a washboard, and an old iron and turned it into a multimillion-dollar business . . ."

Many irons, including self-heating models that run on kerosene, and  other artifacts from the Shelton Laundry assemblage can be seen on display directly across from the stove and irons pictured above.  Come visit us sometime soon and see them all!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mystery Artifact of the Week!

Hello, everyone.  I'm Valerie, Education Programs Specialist and archaeologist, and I'd like to welcome you to our Mystery Artifact blog!  We hope to use this weekly feature to introduce you to some familiar (and maybe not-so-familiar!) artifacts from our exhibits and collections.

There are so many wonderful artifacts on display at the Museum of the Grand Prairie, and although I am in the galleries almost every day, more often than not a "new" artifact or object that I had not noticed before will catch my eye.  This usually results in a quick question-and-answer session with either Tom (our Registrar responsible for cataloging the artifacts and recording them in a database) or with Barb (our former Curator and brand-new Director).  I think one of the most amazing facts about the Museum is that only about 20% of our collection is actually out on display (and a large portion of that percentage includes the 700+ horseshoes in the blacksmith's shop)!

In the coming weeks, we hope to bring you some artifacts from behind-the-scenes in our collection, but since the blog is brand-new, I'll start off with an easy one from our Prairie Stories exhibit.  Who can guess this artifact (or artifacts)?

Mystery Artifact #1

Please post your answers in the comments section below, and thanks for playing!  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

About the Museum of the Grand Prairie

“History is not the past.
It is a story about the past, told in the present,
and designed to be useful in constructing the future” 
                 --Henry Glassie

Each of us has our own story, a story of living here on the verge of the Grand Prairie. Our stories inform our lives and the lives of those around us.   

Come visit the Museum of the Grand Prairie in Mahomet, Illinois.  
Read, see, and listen to stories of Native Americans and settlers, 
farmers and city folk, Irish and Germans and African Americans.

Learn about Lincoln's time as a country lawyer, 
riding the Eighth Circuit Court through Champaign County.

Visit Zay Wright's room and read her diary entries to learn more about life
 in Champaign County at the turn of the last century.

 Reflect on how the stories of others are similar to or different from your own.

Follow our blog in the coming months to learn more about the natural and cultural history of Champaign County; let us take you behind-the-scenes to learn about collection, curation, preservation, and interpretation; and learn about the history of the museum as we celebrate our 45th year serving the Champaign County community!