SYCAMORE – The Sycamore History Museum and Joiner History Room have joined forces to create the DeKalb County History Center, dedicated to “inspiring curiosity in DeKalb County history.”
“Instead of duplicating services, it will be one-stop shopping,” Michelle Donahoe, the new, combined center’s executive director, said Wednesday afternoon.
Donahoe previously had been executive director of the Sycamore History Museum, 1730 N. Main St., Sycamore, where the new center will be housed. Joiner History Room, 103 E. State St., Sycamore, will continue to collect county archival materials until a new building is built.
The idea started several years ago, when several of the county’s 28 history groups met to discuss the challenges they faced as nonprofit organizations.
“Surprise, surprise, we all have a lot of the same challenges,” Donahoe said.
The announcement became official March 1 with the launch of the first phase of the center’s website, dekalbcountyhistory.org.
One of the Sycamore museum’s barns will be torn down, and a construction committee has been formed to work on plans for the new facility – a building with a “farm feel.”
Phase 2 of the website, which Donahoe said will emerge this summer, will feature information about the 28 groups, a calendar of events and all the historical markers throughout the county.
Thomas J. Matya, vice president of development for Zea Mays Holdings in Sycamore, has helped Donahoe and Sue Breese, DeKalb County historian and Joiner History Room director, turn the idea of the center into a reality. Matya said it is important for the conglomeration not to take funding from other small groups.
“I think that we are going to be very, very cognizant in our fundraising efforts to not poach individual organizations,” Matya said. “We’re working with some private individuals that have expressed an interest in this to help us establish it, and none of those folks or organizations really are large funders of those smaller groups.”
The new facility will open in
May 2019, in time for a Smithsonian exhibit Crossroads: Change in Rural America to pass through town.
“I think all of the little groups throughout the county do have some great stories that people just aren’t aware of, so this’ll be a great opportunity for us to help highlight those little organizations,” Breese said. “It’s not only about the projects and stuff; there’s the people that are trying to keep everything alive.”
The overall response to the center’s creation has been positive, Donahoe said.
“We’re not in competition with each other; we want to just build up the museum community,” Donahoe said.
For information, call 815-895-5762.