The Wabash County Museum--1991
The Wabash County Museum began in 1991 after a voter's referendum passed to create a museum district. The local historical society had a museum which had closed due to lack of funding and volunteers. The new museum is a museum district and levies for tax support each year from the Waash County residents. This gives a budget of about $30,000 to operate on, which includes a part-time employee, insurance, utilities, and any maintenance on the building at 320 North Market Street in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, the county seat. The museum rebuilt its website in 2020 (the 3rd one) and set up a site for audio and video tours within the museum. There are currently 17 permanent exhibits and space for one or two rotating exhibits. The musem also maintans a Facebook page.
The Collections Care Manager works 20 hours per week and maintains the collection database and the collection items. Each item is photographed or scanned into the database, given an accession number and housed safely on permanent safe shelving. Most items are housed in acid free boxes or folders. Currently there are around 27,000 items in the database. Items may be donated to the museum at any time if they are Wabash County related and are able to be cared for by the staff. Persons donating items must fill out a deed of gift, giving the museum the right to hold the items in its possession.
The museum is managed by a board of 5 which consists of the President, Secretary, Treasurer and two other board members who meet monthly to take care of the museum business.
Any person is invited to attend board meetings if they wish. The date and time are published on the website under the Events and Meetings button. Any person may ask for copies of the meeting minutes, agenda or financial statement.
The current president and acting curator is Claudia Dant, Treasurer is Jamie McCorkle, Secretary is Roxanna Seybold and other board members are Cory Nolan and Dick Schoaff.
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.