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Two for the show

Historical Society's second DVD puts spotlight on I & M Canal

Brian Nolan, an artist and a member of the Grundy County Historical Society, stands in front of a collection of drawings he did of the I&M Canal, showing the canal as it looked in the past and how it appears now.
Brian Nolan, an artist and a member of the Grundy County Historical Society, stands in front of a collection of drawings he did of the I&M Canal, showing the canal as it looked in the past and how it appears now.

With help from a 10-year-old Immaculate Conception School student, Brian Nolan and G. Patrick Rooney, both of the Grundy County Historical Society, have created their second DVD detailing a Grundy County landmark.

Their first DVD featured the Interurban Railroad System, an electric trolley that ran through Morris, and was released in December 2011.

Just a few months later, in March, they completed their second informational DVD on the historical Illinois and Michigan Canal, which runs from Lockport, Ill., to Lock No. 14 and 15 in LaSalle, Ill.

Nolan and Rooney started making historical DVDs because they were making presentations at the Historical Society in Morris and started to see people from all over the country interested in learning about these historical sites.

“We had them from all over the place,” Nolan said. “We had them from Virginia. We had them from South Carolina. I said, ‘Pat we have something here. Let’s do something with it.’”

So the historians expanded their research and presentations and put them into digital format. On the second project, they sought help from a local student.

“It was pretty fun,” said Eli Davy, the ICS student who worked with Nolan and Rooney on the project.

As viewers watch the slide-show-like video with hand-drawn scenes from the past and present of the I & M Canal, two characters, Gus and Joey, talk back-and-forth about the history of the canal.

“When you mention the I & M Canal, the eyes start to roll,” Nolan said.

With that in mind, Nolan, the artist behind the I & M drawings, wanted to incorporate a young voice who could liven up the video a bit.

“The worst thing you could do is have a boring DVD and everybody just looking at it like ‘Oh god, another picture,’” he said.

Once Nolan, Rooney and Eli were matched up, they started meeting at Eli’s school for an hour or two at a time to go over Nolan’s drawings.

“We just wanted honest questions and that’s what I was looking for from Eli. What do you see? What questions do you have?” Nolan said.

As the pictures go by, Eli, speaking as Joey, asks Nolan, or “Gus,” questions about the canal’s origin, the locations in the drawing and about the canal’s use. Nolan said Eli now probably has about 90 percent more knowledge about the canal than the average person walking down the street.

Rooney, who was in charge of the technical details of the DVD, said he and Nolan would like to see the DVD used in school curricula someday.

Eli was able to show his work off to his classmates, the fourth-graders and the sixth-grade class at ICS. He said students begin learning about the canal at ICS when they get to sixth grade, so it was appropriate to show them, too.

“The whole class said, ‘You did great, Eli.’ So did my teacher,” he said. He said he was “sort of” nervous to show his peers, but thought it turned out OK in the end.

The DVD will be available at the Grundy County Historical Society in Morris for $22.50 including tax.

Interested buyers can also find it at Crowberry Creek in Morris, the Joliet Historical Museum in Joliet and the La Salle County Historical Society and Museum in Utica, Ill.

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