Wabash County Museum District History
The Wabash County Museum District was formed on January 7, 1991 after the voters of Wabash County passed a referendum creating a museum district in November 1990. A board of 5 was appointed on that date by the Wabash County Commissioners to serve as museum district commissioners. Also on that date Dr. Gerald Burkett and his wife Sue donated the historic house at 119 West Third Street, Mt. Carmel, IL which the museum occupied until October 2005. Dr. Burkett had used the building as his dental office while constructing a new office next door. The building was called The Burkett House, Wabash County Museum, in honor of the family.
Later that year, Quentin Blair donated the home of his sister, Nordica Kelly, to the museum district after Nordica's passing. The parlor of the Burkett House was dedicated as the Blair-Kelly parlor at the museum's grand opening in 1992. The house was sold in June 2005 to provide a down payment on the new museum at 320 N. Market Street
The Wabash County Historical Society, formed in 1965, gathered artifacts and opened a museum in May 1974. Sadly that museum could not continue to operate. Historical Society members worked to inform the voters of the county about the need for a museum district and were instrumental in getting the referendum passed. After the creation of the district, the entire historical society collection was donated to the museum district. The two organizations continue to operate as sister organizations, although separate financially and organizationally.
The creation of a museum district, enabled by Illinois statute, gives the museum district the power to levy a small tax to support its work. The allowed tax rate is .01 per hundred dollars of assessed valuation within the district. Tax money levied for one year is received in the next year.
The museum hires a part-time collections care manager and uses volunteers to assist in its work. Volunteers are always welcome. Donations of artifacts, which tell the county's history are always welcome, providing space allows. In the summer of 2005 a dream of building an archive to house the collection and expanded exhibit and programing space became a reality when the Board purchased the former Cowling-Witsman furniture store from Dennis Griggs. Minor renovations gave about 12,000 square feet for exhibit space as well as secure archive space, research library, shop for messy work, offices, additional bathrooms, and handicapped accessibility.