I recently spent some time touring the Midway Village Museum
in Rockford, Ill. This open-air museum initially was started with a donation of
land by the Severin Family, and next year will mark the museum’s 40th
If you have never heard of this museum, I recommend you
check it out. The 148-acre museum campus includes a main Museum Center that
features permanent and temporary exhibits of local history.
The 13-acre village depicts 1900s America, and as visitors
enter the village, they are greeted by interpreters dressed in period clothing.
The museum was organized by three historical societies —
Swedish, Harlem and Rockford Historical Societies for the mission of
preservation, collection and interpretation of the history of the Rockford
In the village, a common area is surrounded by several
homes, a 1905 barn, an 1850 barn and a three-quarter scale Rockford Hospital.
What is really neat is some of these buildings were moved to
museum after they were donated by the owners. Descendents of these donors
sometimes visit their “family” structure to do a little reminiscing.
In the main street area, a variety of buildings line both
sides of the street. Visitors can tour a police station, fire station, print
shop, hardware store, general store, bank and several others that are filled
Numerous exhibits are on display in the Museum Center,
including a display that highlights the development of the red-heeled work socks
that were used by many to make the well-known sock monkeys. John Nelson, the
inventor of the knitting machine, opened Nelson Knitting Co. in 1880 and started
producing red-heel work socks in Rockford.
The newest exhibit in the museum is Many Faces, One
Community, which is about the immigrant experience of those who came to Rockford
from the early years through today. Visitors enter through a train depot facade
where they will hear typical sounds that immigrants might hear as they arrive at
The first phase of the Many Faces, One Community is
complete, and the next phase is expected to be finished by 2014. The new area
will feature an immigrant home and streetscapes of early Rockford, as well as a
Swedish parlor and Italian kitchen and a boarding house.
The Museum Center at Midway Village Museum is open
year-round, and the village is open from May through August. In addition, there
are numerous special events scheduled throughout the year.
I’m planning on returning to visit the museum when the
interpreters are present to get the full experience of the facility, and I look
forward to the completion of the Many Faces, One Community exhibit. It already
is pretty neat, and I expect the next phase to be just as special.
It costs only $7 for adults and $5 for kids, ages 3 to 17,
to visit. That seems like quite a bargain for full day of learning and
experiencing a piece of history.
For more information about the Midway Village Museum, visit
www.midwayvillage.com or call (815) 397-9112.