100 Years of Artifacts

It took two years to design the largest display ever to hit the DuPage County Historical Museum.
Now residents can check out the three-story exhibit that celebrates the county’s most prominent folk artist.
Clarissa and Bailey Hobson are known as two of the first people to settle in Naperville. Memories of them have been preserved inside portraits painted by well-known 19th century artist, Sheldon Peck.

The man made a living as a portraitist for many years as he traveled from Vermont to New York, eventually settling in modern-day Lombard, Illinois where many of his customers lived in DuPage County.

He became famous after his death in 1868, and still is. Peck’s art is now featured in museums across the country, and for a limited time, they are a part of the ‘Early Illinois Folk Art’ exhibit at the DuPage County Historical Museum in Wheaton.

“Originally the exhibit was conceived as just focusing on the folk art painter Sheldon Peck. And then as we started doing our research we realized really what a rich tradition folk art has in Illinois,” said Museum Educator, Sara Buttita.

Museum coordinators tracked down more than 100 artifacts loaned to them by private collectors and museums nationwide. The display is now their largest ever, stretching to all three floors of the building.

Visitors, young and old, can enjoy four different galleries of windmill weights, weathervanes, duck decoys, quilts, and paintings, each from years 1825 to 1925.

“It’s been a really enriching opportunity because I think nowadays many people in the Chicagoland area don’t really appreciate the settlers that came here and how farm life was so integral to the development to the state,” Buttita said. “This exhibit gives us a really great opportunity to share the really wonderful craftsmanship, creativity, and innovation of the people who lived here 100 years ago.”

Buttita says many people ask her what makes the wide variety of objects “folk art.” She says they are everyday items made by untrained people who needed to put them to good use during that time period.

“The coolest thing for our staff was learning and understanding how these people took these objects and really made them beautiful in very very simple ways,” she said.

Museum staff hopes the Folk Art exhibit will break their attendance records this summer, bringing in more than 5,000 people.

The exhibit runs through September 15th, for more information visit dupagemuseum.org.

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