Evanston Historical Society receives grant for exhibit

Beth Murtagh

The Evanston Historical Society was awarded a $85,900 grant this month, which it will use to create its first permanent, interactive display in February 2006.

“We’re not going to have animatronics, but we are going to have computer kiosks,” said Eden Juron Pearlman, curator of collections at Evanston Historical Society.

In the past, Evanston Historical Society displayed only temporary exhibits, devoted to different topics such as the temperance movement. The new exhibit will be permanent and will display many important relics of Evanston’s history, Pearlman said.

The exhibit will be the first time many Evanston artifacts will be shown since the 1930s or 1940s, said Leslie Goddard, manager of education and programs at Evanston Historical Society.

Visitors will be able to see the sign from the Buckeye Hotel, one of Evanston’s first permanent buildings, and relics such as the cabin door from the Lady Elgin shipwreck of 1860, Goddard said.

About 830 museums applied for the 2004 Museums for America grant, which is awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C. Evanston Historical Society was one of 186 recipients. This year is the first time Evanston Historical Society has applied for the grant.

“Evanston is such an interesting story historically,” Goddard said. “In some ways, it’s a typical Chicago community story, in terms of migration and the influence of commuters. On the other hand, a lot of early settlers were people with very specific ideas of community.”

The city’s identity struggles make it a fascinating place, Goddard said.

“I like to think that’s what helped us stand out,” she said.

The national landmark Charles Gates Dawes House, 225 Greenwood St., houses the Evanston Historical Society. The restored first floor of the house is devoted to Charles Dawes, who served as vice president under former President Calvin Coolidge. The first floor has the original furnishings from the period. The new permanent gallery will be on the second floor.

“It’s definitely going to be quite different than the rest of the house (and) a demarcation from what you think,” Pearlman said.

— Beth Murtagh