This entry includes a walking tour! Take the tour.
The Museum of the Grand Prairie collects, preserves, and interprets the natural and cultural history of Champaign County and East Central Illinois. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums since 1972, the Museum of the Grand Prairie has interactive exhibits that engage visitors from ages 2 through 102! Exhibits include The Grand Prairie Story, interpreting the history of the region from the Ice Age through the present day. Champaign County's Lincoln, discussing what the region was like during the 1850s as Lincoln rode the Eighth Judicial Circuit through Champaign County. Discovering Home, an engaging and highly interactive exhibit where visitors of all ages can explore a variety of homes from a wigwam to a log cabin as well as explore ways people across our area's history have communicated with and traveled to and from their homes. Historic Hensley Town Hall that has been reconfigured as our one-room schoolhouse that also doubles as an exhibit and a space where school marms/masters conduct first-person interpretations of 19th century school lessons. Blacksmithing on the Prairie recreates the Chesebro Blacksmith Shop, formerly of Saunemin, Illinois, and tells the story of this central Illinois family as well as its experience in the Blacksmith business. Our current special exhibit is titled "A History of Healing: Infectious Diseases and Community Responses to Defeat Them." The exhibit focuses on the impact and influence of such diseases as the 1918 flu, smallpox, malaria, tuberculosis, polio, typhoid, cholera, HIV, AIDS, and COVID-19. When viewing this exhibit, visitors will build an appreciation and basic understanding of the historic influences disease had over people’s lives and communities, both in central Illinois and abroad, resulting in a better understanding of how disease affects us today and informs our responses to it. In addition to examining the impact disease has had on the health and well-being of local communities, the exhibit will highlight particular instances in the past, as well as the present, where local citizens came together during previous epidemics and pandemics for the betterment of their communities.
The Grand Prairie Story
The Grand Prairie Story
How Long Must Women Wait? Woman Suffrage and Women's Rights in Champaign County
Discovering Home - Wigwam
Discovering Home - Storytelling during Exhibit Opening Event
Champaign County's Lincoln - Simulated Eighth Judicial Circuit Buggy Ride
Backstory and Context
In turbulent times, it is customary to look to the past for answers. In 1968, Champaign County’s answer to that quest was opening a museum.
The August 8, 1967 issue of The News-Gazette reported on the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, “The most outstanding project by far, is the Early American Museum, now under construction. Early American artifacts and antiques donated by William Redhed, Homer, will be on view in the two-story building and adjoining structure.” By June 16, 1968, that outstanding project was completed and the Early American Museum opened its doors.
For over fifty years the Early American Museum, now the Museum of the Grand Prairie, has been collecting and interpreting the past, telling the stories of the lives of Champaign County’s people, providing fun and stimulating experiences for its audience all in hope of informing current and future generations.
The Museum of the Grand Prairie also offers several virtual exhibits, including the Gray Family Photos archive, an oral history project summarizing the experiences of the East Frisian community of German immigrants, and information from the Doris K. Wylie Hoskins Archive for Cultural Diversity detailing the lasting contributions of African-American women and men to the community.
An extensive amount of information on museum updates, events, and featured museum artifacts can be found on Museum Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. See the links below for more info.
Museum of the Grand Prairie. May 15th 2020. Accessed May 15th 2020. www.museumofthegrandprairie.org