Detail of George Berry’s New Salem Village

For forty years, the museum has been preserving and protecting our history.  Greatest Hits of Our History is the last in a series of three that celebrate the collection and the region’s history, and will be on view through May 2, 2015.

Listen to an interview about the exhibit on Tri States Public Radio.

Since its founding in May of 1974, the museum has strived to preserve the region’s most compelling artifacts.  The Western Illinois Museum has built a collection of over 6,000 artifacts, believing that a community’s treasures are held in the everyday items, documents, photographs, and items that commemorate significant events. To celebrate the museum’s fortieth year, some of the well-loved displays have been installed once again, including George Berry’s New Salem Village, the Utica Crib, and the Modern Woodmen of America’s Wooden Goat.

Director Sue Scott commented about the exhibit, “Frequently I am asked about George Berry’s model of New Salem.  We are pleased to have this important piece on display again for the next generation to learn about the early 1800s history in our region.”  The memorable diorama was donated to the museum shortly after it opened in 1974 and was on view on the third floor of Sherman Hall until it was placed in storage during the museum’s move to its current location.  Measuring 12 by 23 feet and including handmade replicas of the 25 buildings that made up the New Salem village, a vibrant community from 1828 to 1840.  George Berry included details such as fences, outhouses, ash hoppers and even animals. Accompanying the model is a timeline of Abraham Lincoln’s early life, which included his time in New Salem from 1831 to 1837. Watch a video of museum volunteers installing the village. 

Buffalo Coat
Buffalo Coat

The exhibit also includes a selection from the museum’s collection of early photography including images of turn of the century sports teams, local businesses, and family portraits.  The buffalo skin coat, another favorite appropriate for Midwest winter weather, is also on view.  While it can be viewed as simply an army issued coat, it also speaks to the extensive harvesting of the American Buffalo and the advent of the term, Buffalo Soldier, coined to describe the black regiments.

The museum’s collection continues to grow guided by a collection policy that helps the Board of Directors decide what is added to the collection.  The exhibit includes a few recent acquisitions including a nickelodeon and portrait of young J. Wallace (b.1882, d. 1967) and Frank M. (b.1885, d.1969) Fellheimer, sons of Issac and Laura Fellheimer.

Watch an Illinois Story about the exhibit with Mark McDonald

The Western Illinois Museum is located at 201 South Lafayette Street, one block south of Macomb’s Courthouse Square.  The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Admission is free, donations welcome.  For more information, contact the museum at 309.837.2750 or