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 anniversary.

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 area.

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 with artifacts.

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 a depot.

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.