The Museum of the Grundy County Historical Society held a grand opening for its new space just weeks ago. But the volunteers who keep the museum up and running are already on to the next project.
Last month, the museum held the grand opening for the new Sereno Family Addition, which was named after the late Ken Sereno, a retired Morris businessman and local historian. The new space allowed expansion of current exhibits and the introduction of new ones, including coal mining, the old Morris Paper Mill, a Weitz’s Cafe booth and a display on G-Shaft candy.
Now, historical society president Donna Sroczynski said the organization will focus on work to fix the floor in its garage space.
"We right now have what used to be a garage. It was never converted over. Now we've reached the point that we have to do something with it," she said, adding that the floor needs to be raised for safety.
The total remodel of that section of the museum will likely top out at more than $8,000, but Sroczynski said the floor will be the focus at first. The museum operates on a tight budget, so fundraising to help with this and future projects is key.
The museum gets some funding from the City of Morris. Other money comes from grants, research charges, the gift shop, the annual Festival of Trees fundraiser and raffles, and memorials.
"We're approximately working on a $20,000 per year budget. It's slim," Sroczynski said. "Where ever we can make money, we do. We have huge numbers of volunteers doing things. It's a constant thing that we're always doing something here. The major problem since we got the new addition is that we're just short on volunteers [so] we use any and all assistance that we can get."
All of the efforts keep the site running not just as a museum, but as the only local historical research facility.
"Today we are the one research center left here in Morris or in Grundy County in order to do research on families," Sroczynski said.
History of the museum
The Historical Society created the museum in 1923 with two exhibits at the Grundy County Courthouse. During the war years the museum lapsed a bit, but was recreated in 1967. In 1994 the museum was housed in a store front on Liberty Street. In 2008, the Historical Society had an opportunity to buy the space at its current location at 510 W. Illinois Ave. in Morris, with members volunteering labor to create the museum.
The museum got full quickly, which necessitated an expansion. The grand opening of that expansion was held in June 2019.
"We have some new exhibits, we moved some other exhibits into the new space and created newer ones over there, and new ones on the original side," Sroczynski said.
Sroczynski said keeping the museum ready for visitors and up to date is vital to the county.
"This is the only place where you can save local history. Because it's important, even at the local level," Sroczynski said. "This gives people a place to come and be able to ask those questions like the ones we get [on the website]... I think they should know their own place, and if they are curious, this is the place to come. Because we have the answers."