MORRIS – In 1923, the Grundy County Historical Society was formed, but during the war years of the 1940s and after, the group fell by the wayside as people transitioned from war life back into a civilian way of living, Grundy County Historical Society and Museum President Donna Sroczynski said.
In 1967, however, the society was reestablished as active and will celebrate its 50-year anniversary on April 22 at the museum located at 510 West Illinois Ave., in downtown Morris.
Sroczynski said this celebration was designed for two purposes: It serves to celebrate the 50 years the group has served the county and acts as a fundraiser to fund an expansion of the existing building, or pay for a new location.
“We have had a large influx of donations. You hear the saying, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Well, we built it and they came. We are the attic of Grundy County,” Sroczynski said.
Sroczynski said the museum has received a matching funds pledge up to $200,000, so each donation counts as double for the building fund. The event is casual with a cost of $50 a person. Sandwiches, sushi, fruit and cheese trays and beer and wine will be served.
Four to five items will be available for guests to bid on in a silent auction. Four dining room chairs from the 1840s covered with a cream fabric and a wooden jury chair with a black leather seat are just two groups of items on the auction block.
Sroczynski showed pictures of the museum in 2009 and only a few standing displays and cases were at the site. Now, vintage glass and wood cases line the outside, inside and middle aisles of the museum, mock home fronts house period furniture, dishes and clothing, family collections hang on the walls and photos and maps which show the history of the county have been carefully displayed in poster cases.
“Our options are to add to this building or buy a building and find space elsewhere,” Sroczynski said.
The properties adjacent to the museum are not for sale, but plans have been explored to add on to the existing property, with an approximate price tag of $450,000, which Sroczynski said seemed to be the best bet. The society has looked at many properties around the Morris area and what they have found has either been too small, too expensive or out of the city limits.
The museum has many documents, maps and donations filed in cabinets in offices and the meeting rooms that Sroczynski said she would love to display, but due to the fragility of the items, taking them in and out to show one guest at a time could damage them, but having a permanent place to display could keep them preserved and allow the community to enjoy.
In order to better serve Grundy County, speakers often are invited to the museum, but again, due to lack of space, meetings need to take place off of the museum property and if they are at the museum, limited space is available.
“I hope we can continue to collect pictures before they are all thrown out and collect history before another generation throws it out. We also want to present history in a way that it can be interpreted by children,” Sroczynski said.
Since the society has only 130 members, Sroczynski said she wants the residents of the county to see what is available and join the society. An annnual individual fee runs $25, family $30, student $10 up to age 18, business institution $100, as well as life, patron, benefactor and not-for-profit memberships. Monies collected help to run and expand the offerings at the museum.
Tickets for the April 22 event can be purchased by calling 815-942-4880.