IO Museum of Grand Prairie

Mahomet’s Museum of the Grand Prairie is located just 8 miles from Champaign-Urbana.

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Where can you pound on an anvil, ride in Abe Lincoln’s buggy and visit a wigwam all in one day? At the Museum of the Grand Prairie, of course.

Located just 8 miles from Champaign-Urbana, it’s a short ride to a lot of fun in an absolutely gorgeous setting.

Maybe you haven’t been since you were a kid on a field trip, but things are always changing here. Seven years ago, we changed our name from the Early American Museum. Just this year, we changed one of our most-beloved permanent exhibits. Now, the hands-on “Discovering Home” exhibit focuses on how local native people and settlers lived in the early days of Champaign County.

Other exhibits include “Champaign County’s Lincoln” (a local look at his days practicing law on the 8th Judicial Circuit), “The Grand Prairie Story” (in which we speed from glaciers to the 1950s in the blink of an eye) and “Blacksmithing on the Prairie” (where we rec- eate a central Illinois blacksmith shop, ca. 1920 in its entirety).

We’ve got special exhibits, too. Currently you can travel back in time with our exhibit “1968: A Time for Every Purpose.” In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the museum, which opened in 1968, we examined the space race, Vietnam, counter-culture, civil rights and the environmental movement through local artifacts and activism. We started that year with 3,000 objects, and our collection — mostly from local donors — now numbers above 25,000 pieces. But don’t wait too long, because we’re changing that too. The 1968 exhibit closes Dec. 31.

On March 1, we’ll open another special exhibit, “How Long Must Women Wait: Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights in Champaign County” in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, in which women were allowed to vote.

There are fascinating women in this county’s history, and we’ll discuss quite a few of them.

Exhibits change and so do our programs. We do activity-based field trips in everything from soil science to the one-room schoolhouse, serving 8,119 students in 2018.

The ever-changing landscape of our public programs ahead includes our 12th annual Lincoln Lecture Series (various dates), an Archaeology Open House (Nov. 3) and the perennial favorite, on Dec. 1, To Grandmother’s House We Go. All are free.

What else changes? The seasons. As a facility of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, we are surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Outside our back door is the Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden, across the street is Buffalo Trace Prairie and to our east you can take a walk through the Rayburn Purnell Woods. On the far side of Lake of the Woods Preserve, you can fish in the lake or even play golf.

Come see us; we’re changing things just for you. For more information, call 217-586-2612 or visit museumofthegrandprairie.org. The museum’s address is 950 N. Lombard, Mahomet.

Barb Oehlschlaeger-Garvey is the director of the museum and education department of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.