The Empire Township Historical Museum is located at ground level on the east side of the J.T. and E.J. Crumbaugh Library. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history of Empire Township. It boasts two large wall murals – one of early downtown LeRoy and the other of a steam engine pulling a train through the township countryside. There are two permanent exhibits – The How, LeRoy’s main retail outlet for many years and one on the two railroad (Big Four and Punkin Vine) which served LeRoy. A children’s corner near the guided reading library and a display of a 9-11 artifact have also been added.
In 1975, the LeRoy Historical Society felt the need for a history museum in LeRoy. Members of the Society worked with board members of the Crumbaugh Estate and a storage room on the ground level of the J.T. and E.J. Crumbaugh was cleaned out, remodeled and turned into a museum. Members of the Historical Society maintained the museum for many years, creating scrapbooks, obtaining items for the archives and changing exhibits. But as members of the Society aged, there was no one able to keep the museum open. In 2010 a group of volunteers gathered to save the museum. A board was formed and not-for profit status obtained. The name was changed to the Empire Township Historical Museum.
The museum has received two grants from the Illinois Humanities Council. The first grant provided technical training for the volunteers and funds to purchase archival materials for preserving museum items. The second grant brought the museum into the age of technology – an up-to-date computer, printer and flat screen television were added to the museum. The television is used to show DVD’s which have been made from video recording and old movie reels, as well as oral histories and other projects the museum has filmed.
The museum continues to develop a partnership with the LeRoy School District. A display case if filled with a LeRoy history display each month at LeRoy Elementary School and Rosemary Parker works with teachers to tie the display case into an area the students are studying. Rosemary is also available to give presentations to students at the display case and in the classroom. The museum also contains a guided reading library to make level-appropriate books available to young readers. At the junior high level, the museum works with students to record oral histories. High school students are invited to use the museum for research materials and for help with history projects. Field trips are encouraged at all levels. The museum board continues to work with district staff to develop new ways to encourage district students to use the museum and its resources.
The museum has tables, chairs and open space and the board offers the space as a meeting place for organizations and card clubs. Call (309) 468-8409 to reserve a date and time.
The museum is open Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. It is also open by appointment. To schedule a visit call (309) 468-8409 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.
Board of Directors
Rosemary Parker, Sue Bratcher, Peg Golden, Melinda Beck, Carole Hillard, Carolyn Walker, Nancy Spratt, Betty Hillard and LaWanda Mattson