The American Civil War was a devastating conflict that pitted families against each other and took the lives of thousands of young men. Kankakee County contributed more than one thousand of its residents to the ranks of the Union Army; many were immigrants to our area willing to sacrifice their lives, if need be, for what they believed in.
This collection includes pieces created by a variety of local artists and belonged to local businessman, Robert "Bob" Dahl. Mr. Dahl was the founder and president of Key Outdoor, Inc., a family-owned outdoor advertising business that began here in Kankakee over 40 years ago. Mr. Dahl loved working with local artists and the community. All of the pieces in the collection were donated by his son, Andrew Dahl.
Built in 1855, this home is one of the Museum’s living history buildings. The home is set to look as though a family home may have looked in the mid to late 1800s. 2015 saw the renovation of the upstairs bedrooms, including a master bedroom, children’s bedrooms, and a play area featuring a collection of 19th Century toys. There is also a display of typewriter styles throughout the decades.
The Schoolhouse was moved to the Museum Campus in 1976 and is another living history building. Students and adults can sit in antique school desks, explore the coat closets, and read about education in the 1900s. The Museum also offers tours of the Schoolhouse to local schools for field trips.
This print shop exhibit highlights the inner-workings of a twentieth-century printing business. With printing machines of various types donated by local newspaper businesses, visitors can explore the way newspapers were once put together.
The history and heritage of African-Americans in Kankakee County is vibrant and varied. This exhibit relates events and milestones of African-American heritage at the national level, while also celebrating and exploring what was happening here in Kankakee County.
The Museum's War Exhibition encompasses The First World War, WWII, and major conflicts the United States has been involved in since. The two exhibit spaces are full of artifacts and stories of soldiers and veterans, including information on the U.S.S. Kankakee. The USS Kankakee was built in 1942 and used to fuel fighting ships during World War II and the Korean War.
Our sports gallery is full of memorabilia from local teams, players, and those from the area that went on to the professional level. The exhibit highlights the incredible feats of sportsmanship in Kankakee and shows what so many different people can accomplish from such a small region.
Kankakee County Museum Exhibits
This exhibit is housed in the South Gallery of the museum and is the largest exhibit space on display. The exhibit details the story of the county from the time of the glacier all the way to the 1980s “boom and bust” of the economy. This newly redesigned exhibit is the largest overhaul in recent history. The museum implemented new technology in the form of films and digital picture frames, and it added interactive displays. You can sit at an old desk and thumb through replications of texts and you may take your picture in the old bank exhibit.
The North Gallery is comprised of three separate newly redesigned exhibits. Kankakee’s Three Governors displays artifacts and information related to the three governors of Illinois from Kankakee County. James Lillie, Life at the Turn of the Century, displays artifacts from large historic homes in the County that were built during a time of opulence and have since been demolished. The interpretive signage also explains the Gilded Age in American History. The F.D. Radeke Brewing Company exhibit contains many artifacts from the Brewery and tells of how the Volstead Act affected local businesses.
George Grey Barnard was an American sculptor from the early 1900s that received praise for his works in Europe and the United States. The Kankakee County Museum has several dozen of his pieces, many of which are very large. The exhibit has just received a redesign to include new interpretive signage and photographs of the artist’s work in his studio, as well as his sketches.