Opened amid the United States Bicentennial celebration in 1976 and home to the country's largest collection of postcards, the Lake County Discovery Museum will move to Libertyville, in what officials say is a more centralized location.
"We can protect the extensive collection of artifacts and archives, and will have much better spaces in which to do that," said Andrew Kimmel, the Lake County Forest Preserve District's interim executive director. "We can better care for the long-term survival of this part of Lake County's heritage."
A consolidation of old farm buildings nestled between Wauconda and Mundelein, the museum contains two permanent exhibits and three smaller galleries that change over the course of three months. Roughly 18,000 archival objects ranging from an old Civil War drum to photographs, diaries, letters and maps are also housed within the museum's doors.
Within the next few years, the museum will move from its current location at the Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda to a 90,000 square foot building at 1899 W. Winchester Road in Libertyville.
Members of the Lake County Forest Preserve District staff created a conceptual plan over the past few years detailing where the exhibits and general offices of the museum will be located and the kinds of exhibits it will have, as well as how the collections and archives will be stored, officials said.
"The whole project of making all these moves was intended from the beginning to be in phases," said Katherine Hamilton-Smith, the Lake County Forest Preserve District's director of cultural resources. "Moving a museum is a huge endeavor and it has significant historical collections."
Of the museum's two exhibits, the first focuses on the history of Lake County and its relationship to Chicago. The second features an archival collection of 3.5 million postcards, the world's largest public collection, according to Hamilton-Smith. Blank and handwritten postcards produced by artists and companies all over the world make up this unique exhibit.
"We've built it over 30 years to become this distinguished collection, which is really a national treasure," Hamilton-Smith said
Discussions about moving the museum to a more accessible and spacious location in Lake County first began several years ago, according to officials. Lake County Forest Preserve staff members collaborated with the village of Libertyville and the Lake County Forest Preserve District board of commissioners before buying the new building in 2010, museum representatives said.
"The museum will be in the center of the county and easy for everybody to get to and visit," Kimmel said. "Every time people come back to the museum, they'll be able to see something new because of larger exhibit spaces. It's good to know this collection will survive better in this new location because it will have a better home."
In 2011, the museum's general offices moved into the third floor. The museum's exhibits will occupy the first two floors of the building, Hamilton-Smith said.
During the time it will take to complete the move, Lake County Forest Preserve staff members will work with a foundation to raise the money needed for the transfer through a combination of private donations and grants, Kimmel said.
Kimmel also said staff members plan to present their strategic plan to the Lake County Forest Preserve District Board later in the year.
In the meantime, representatives from Libertyville said they're eager to welcome the new addition.
"We're thrilled and very happy to have the museum located in the former county seat of Lake County," Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler said.