A museum space at last

Forest Park Historical Society set to open Saturday exhibits

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By Historical Society

Artifacts of Forest Park's grand past have finally found a home at the new exhibit space procured by the Historical Society of Forest Park, the agency announced Thursday.

The announcement was made by the agency's president, Bob Cox, and Executive Director Diane Hanson Grah, at the society's annual membership meeting April 23 at the Park District of Forest Park.

Visitors will get a chance to spy artifacts and photos from the Harlem Jockey Club race track, (circa 1895-1912), the Forest Park Amusement Park (1907-1922) and the Amertorp Torpedo factory (1943-1971).

"This will be the first time there will be museum space to tell the whole story of Forest Park's earliest beginnings and different facets of the past," Grah said after the meeting.

The exhibit will be open on Saturdays at First United Church, 1000 Elgin Ave. A grand opening is planned for next month. The new space will be used to display pieces and photographs from the society's collection for years housed in storage.

"Whenever the Historical Society wanted to display anything from collection, it was always done at the library, during a lecture or a presentation," Grah said. "[Society founder] Dr. Frank Orland would bring artifacts out and put them on display, but they were always up temporarily and taken down after presentation."

The society over the years has made use of several public display cases for temporary exhibits, such as the display in the basement of Village Hall now holding photos of the Parichy Bloomer Girls softball team. The library also hosts a permanent display case of Native American artifacts unearthed in the Forest Home cemetery.

Some of the pieces at the new museum will include a sample mini-vault from the Wilbert Vault Co. and a piece of streetcar rail from Madison Street, as well as historical photos, Grah said.

The society has been looking for exhibit space since its reconstitution in 2011, because a display area is required to qualify for national and state grants from organizations such as the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).

"We need to have 40 hours in a given year for a grant, so this space will get us the number open to qualify for a museum grant," she said.  

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