The La Grange Historical Society continued its Golden Anniversary celebration on June 9 with an evening of appreciation for the people who help the organization survive and thrive – the volunteers.
“It’s our 50th anniversary, and we made it happen because of you,” Katherine Padgett, president of the Society, told the gathering of about 35 people at her home.
She also noted the longevity of the volunteers, saying, “Most of these women have been with us for many, many years and they all have specific things they are working on.
The anniversary sees the Society attempt to level up by adding new members, reaching a target of 500.
“We’re trying to be a little bigger and a little better,” Padgett said.
One of the Society’s “best” goals this year is to be able to stay open to the public longer than the Wednesday afternoons currently available to community members.
The limitation on hours of operation is due to the Society having only one paid staff member, Executive Director Sarah Parkes. That changed recently with the hiring of lifelong La Grange resident and Lyons Township High School graduate Laurie Gibbons.
“We will be able to be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and Laurie will allow us to be able to do that,” Padgett said. “We will start to be open on these days from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and hope to expand it to 3 p.m. in the near future.”
Padgett said the push for more hours is a direct result of community input.
“People told us they needed more time to come,” she said. “We have files on every house and property in the city, and many want to come and see them. We want to be available.
Gibbons, who attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, previously worked in health care and is excited to bring not only her business expertise, but also her experience as a longtime resident of the village.
“I saw a blurb in the local patch and thought ‘this would be just awesome for me,'” she said. “It’s a fabulous historical society and I would love to see more people take advantage of it. It’s a hidden gem.
Gibbons echoed Padgett’s sentiments about wanting the Society to have longer hours, saying that was people’s biggest complaint and that she wanted to grant their wishes.
“That’s exactly what they wanted,” she said.
While the Society maintains a permanent museum at the Vial House, 444 S. La Grange Rd., and periodically holds special events, its current summer effort shows how, by any reasonable measure, through technology, domestic life has become much easier for Americans. over the past hundred years or so.
The Society’s summer exhibit, “Technological Treasures That Changed Our Lives,” opened May 6 and will run through September. The exhibit is on display at the Vial House and highlights technological innovations that “have come to make life easier,” as volunteer Judy Burns put it.
Displays are grouped into several different areas of interest, including cameras, projection equipment and televisions, music and radios, home life, home sewing items, telephones, medical equipment and grooming supplies.
Visitors can pick up a free booklet that numbers the artifacts with brief explanations of their uses and the approximate year they were created.
The cameras in particular have seen significant advancements over the years, with a total of 19 different inputs on display. The Brownie Box camera (1907), the Polaroid Land camera (1954), reputed to be the first practical instant camera, a folding camera not identified by manufacturer, and several different types of primitive cameras for home cinema can be found.
Most are listed with the dates of their origin; some are named after La Grange donors, illustrating that all of the artifacts on display are donations from people in the La Grange area.
“It’s all local,” said executive director Parkes. “We don’t have anything unrelated to La Grange or La Grange Park.”
The lead volunteer for the Summer Expo was volunteer Sara Carpenter.
In an email exchange, she recounted her experience setting up the exhibit.
“Our outgoing president, Mark Truax, knew there were many technological objects (for lack of a better word) in our collection that had rarely or never been displayed,” she wrote of the genesis of the show. ‘exposure.
Carpenter curated the last summer exhibits and found it difficult to render the artifacts of over 100 years of history natural in the Victorian setting of the Vial House.
Kate and Becca Rymzsa set up the “What Is It” board, with Becca doing the graphics for the exhibit.
“Adults will see things that remind them of their childhood,” she said. “Young people will be introduced to the conveniences of the past and wonder how their elders got on,” she said.
For more information on the La Grange Area Historical Society, visit its website, lagrangehistory.org.
Hank Beckman is a freelance journalist for Pioneer Press.