Museum Exhibits

2020 Special Exhibit

How Long Must Women Wait? Woman Suffrage and Women's Rights in Champaign County

When Mary Perkins cast her ballot on July 29, 1913 it was the first time a woman voted in Champaign County.  On June 26, 1913, Governor Edward Dunne had signed the suffrage bill into law, giving women the right to vote for President as well as local officers. While the issue for Perkins was whether Champaign City should bond for a new fire truck, the mere fact of voting was a profound breakthrough for the rights of all local women. 

Did you know that Illinois was the first state east of the Mississippi to allow women the right to vote for President? 
Or that it was also the first state to ratify the 19th amendment, doing so on June 10, 1919?  With Tennessee's ratification on August 20, 1920, the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote in all elections was added to the U.S. Constitution.

So many women, who lived their lives in Champaign County and whose names are familiar to us, were involved in the struggle for suffrage right here in our backyard.  And many more toiled for women's rights throughout the two and a half centuries since our nation's beginnings.  


The Grand Prairie Story

Genevieve “History is not the past.
It is a story about the past,
told in the present, and designed to be useful in constructing the future” ....Henry Glassie

Each of us has our own story, a story of living here-- on the verge of the Grand Prairie. Our stories inform our lives and the lives of those around us. Come visit and read, see, listen to, to stories of Native Americans and settlers, farmers and city folk, Irish and Germans and African Americans. Reflect on how the stories of others are similar to, or different from your own.

blacksmith shopBlacksmithing on the Prairie

Come see the family blacksmith shop, a shop begun by A.B Chesebro, in Saunemin, Illinois in 1896 and brought to the Museum of the Grand Prairie!

In 1993, the museum’s staff walked into
a block and frame shop that Ralph Chesebro, A.B.’s son,  had walked out of for the last time in the 1930's.  Oral history interviews were recorded  with Ralph’s family, the shop itself was tirelessly drawn to scale, photographed and videoed; the contents of the shop have been moved; each of 5500 objects has been marked and accessioned into the museum's collections; research on the Chesebro's, Saunemin and area blacksmiths has been conducted; and –within the walls of the museum-- the shop itself was partially reconstructed. Enjoy the interactives, see the wagon equipment, and view the tools of the blacksmith trade in this comprehensive exhibit.

Champaign County’s Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

The built environment that Lincoln knew in Champaign County is almost completely gone and the natural environment is vastly altered. Through our exhibit, "Champaign County's Lincoln" we recreate those places, and evoke that lost environment.

Visitors will appreciate the era in which Lincoln made friends, worked and built his political career in our community!

Our visitors can enter the county, the way Lincoln did, in a buggy. They can visit Kelley's tavern, have their photograph taken in Alschuler's studio, and visit the Goose Pond Church where they'll hear neighbors talking about the political issues of 1856 as they wait for Lincoln to arrive. Click here to see a brief video clip of Lincoln's ride!

Click the photo
For more information about the exhibit

and educational resources