Monday, July 25, 2016

Small, Dark and Mysterious: What's this Artifact?

Hello dear readers! Sorry for not posting last week, we were busy with all our Water/Ways preparations and excitement! Just so you know, we have a ton of Water/Ways-related events and programs coming up for the next few months. Keep track of them on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Now, onto the main event of the Mystery Artifact!

This one is hard to tell the specifics in the photos, but someone still might know what it is right away. 

The artifact is a hollow cylinder, black on the outside, white on the inside (actually, if you look really closely, it's very very dark blue). The outside has very small lines going around it most of the way up. There's also some writing on the top, but that will probably give it away pretty easily!

The inside has a few wide grooves. 

To give you an idea of the size, it’s about 4 and a half inches tall and 2 inches in diameter. 

Do you know what it is? Let us know in the comments, or on any of the social media channels you’d like. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Water/Ways Finally Opens!

Water/Ways Opening! The Smithsonian has finally arrived! 
Opening from 10-4 Saturday July 16, 2016

The Museum of the Grand Prairie is delighted to be hosting the Museums on Main Street Exhibit Water/Ways as jointly sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the Illinois Humanities Council.

Join us to explore the Smithsonian Water/Ways, and learn how water impacts our local community in the companion exhibit, The Worth of Water

As a part of the Museum of the Grand Prairie’s opening celebration of Water/Ways:​​
  • ​​Sara Grady, storyteller and water advocate, will present:  Water, Wonder, Words: Language, Stories, and the Cradle of Life at 2:00 pm
  • ​​Tours of the new exhibit will be given hourly.
  • ​​Interactive stations set up in and around the museum from 1-4pm, including a water table from the Illinois State Water Survey, and participation by the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy, Prairie Rivers Network, the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium, IDNR, and the USGS Ground Water Section.​

Refreshments will be served before the presentation. 

For more info: (217) 586-2612 or

Water/Ways is produced by Museum on Main Street, a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and Illinois Humanities.

Monday, July 11, 2016

You Can Breathe Easy, this Mystery has Been Revealed!

As Kate answered on Facebook (Thank you for your answer!), this is a Kerosene Lamp Vaporizer from the late 1800s. Specifically, this artifact is a “Vapo-Cresolene Vaporizer.” Now what does that mean, exactly?

Most of you reading probably deduced that the lamp-like part of the object was used for heat. The flame from the lamp heated up the apparatus above it, which was meant to be filled with Cresolene. Cresolene was a sticky black liquid, made from coal tar, used as a disinfectant. This substance was used these kinds of vaporizers, supposedly meant for medicinal purposes. On the object’s box, it describes Vapo-Cresolene as “a germ destroying liquid to be vaporized.” Here's how it was meant to be used:

The Vapo-Cresolene Vaporizer that we have in the collection (actually, we have a few of them) is advertised to aid in relieving a number of ailments such as colds, asthma, whooping cough, croup, catarrh, pneumonia, “the bronchial complications of scarlet fever and measles” and  could be used “as an aid in the treatment of diptheria.” Essentially, these kinds of “lamps” were meant to help with any and all respiratory diseases. And don’t just think we’re talking about human respiratory diseases! Oh no, it was also advertised that Vapo-Cresolene could be used as help for horses, dogs and “fowls” with various breathing problems.

Though the manufacturers would like us to believe that this strange substance, Cresolene, was imbued with extraordinary healing powers, the American Medical Association disproved them in a 1908 report. Even so, there were “Vapo-Cresolene” vaporizers still being manufactured until the 1950s.

An electric vaporizer from the '50s!

These days people use humidifiers in much the same way that these vaporizers were used at the turn of the twentieth century. Personally these little machines seem a lot safer to me than inhaling coal tar and sleeping with a lit kerosene lamp next to my bed!

I hope you enjoyed learning about this little artifact as much as I did! Stay tuned next week for another mystery artifact! And as always, if you're interested in a closer look at this or any of our recent mystery artifacts, please come visit us and take a look around the museum too! 

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Can you Shed a Little Light on this Mystery Artifact?

After that long weekend we are back with another new mystery artifact. Here's what this week's "mystery" is:

This mystery artifact is made of a few parts. The first is a small lamp, with a clear bowl, which you can see a wick inside. It also has a small white glass chimney.

The second part is the metal stand, which holds the lamp at the bottom.

The third part is also metal. It is a small bowl at the top. The bowl rests on the top part of the metal stand, and hangs above the top of the lamp chimney.
This artifact is actually rather small, measuring only about half a foot tall, and 2 ¾ inches wide.

What do you think it is? If you have a guess, let us know by commenting here, on our Facebook page, on our Instagram, or by tweeting the answer at us. We really like to know what your guesses are!

There’s some writing on this artifact that I tried to keep out of the pictures, so if you want to try to figure that out, you should definitely come check it out in person. There’s also lots of other great stuff at the museum to check out! See you soon!