by Siera Erazo
Since the founding of the Winnetka Historical Society in 1932, members have collected artifacts, documents, costumes, photos, and films related to Winnetka’s history. Some early donations to WHS included: “pre-historic moose’s antler uncovered in the bogg [sic] west of Winnetka,” “a part of the stern post of the Lady Elgin” donated by Walter Fisher of Fisher Lane, and “a beautiful old dress worn at the Historical Society dance, January 1938,” from a Mrs. Frank Ferry. Many of these items can be found in the collection still today, though sadly we are unsure of the location of the moose antlers. The collection has been moved multiple times over the years with a few inevitable casualties along the way.
In the 1930s, much of the Winnetka Historical Society museum collection was housed in member Frank Windes’ basement and in the vault of the offices of his engineering firm Windes and Marsh. After that, the collection was kept at various society members’ homes and for a period of time in the basement of the Winnetka Public Library. WHS found a home in Skokie School in the 1990s, but relocated its holdings to a storage facility when Skokie School was later reopened as a school. In 2001, with the purchase of a museum and headquarters at 411 Linden Street, the collection finally found a permanent home.
Eighty-three years after its founding, WHS boasts a collection of over 12,000 cataloged items that help us preserve and tell the story of the Village. Thanks to the hard work of dozens of volunteers, interns, and curators about 65-70% of the collection is researchable with accurate location information in our database system.
To build upon that work and further improve our ability to tell Winnetka’s story, this spring we are starting a full inventory of the museum collection. We are aiming for better, more in-depth catalog descriptions, inventory photographs and scans of materials, and updated location data so we may be able to identify and then find materials faster for researchers, students, and staff. Also, this process will help us to make our collections catalog researchable online, much like the catalog at your public library but with artifacts, archives, and photographs instead of books. Perhaps most importantly, maybe we’ll finally locate that long lost moose antler!