Appeared in the Spring/Summer 2023 Gazette
by Helen Weaver
After almost 20 years playing a variety of key roles longtime Winnetka Historical Society Board Member Christine Murdoch has hung up her WHS hat and retired from the board. Christine joined WHS in 2004, after the Schmidt Burnham Log House’s move to the Crow Island woods, just in time to become one of the first docents when the Log House opened as a museum in 2006.
Christine, who has an undergraduate degree in history, loves antiques, and was a former United Nations tour guide, was the perfect person to join a group, led by then WHS Executive Director Joan Evanich, tasked with developing the costumed docent program in place at the log house for the next 15+ years.
Christine remembers well the challenges facing the team. “Shortly after it was moved, there was work to do documenting the Schmidt-Burnham history and then fleshing out what details would be included in the tours. We wanted to include school children of all ages, and since Winnetka’s curriculum includes Pioneer Days, Immigration, and the Civil War we developed programs for all of them. It was a bit of baptism by fire learning what worked and what didn’t.”
Like the other Log House docents, Christine wore a custom-made era appropriate costume to give tours and support local events including the village’s Fourth of July Parade. “You really appreciate the inconveniences of what our predecessors had to endure walking in the sweltering sun from Skokie School to the Village Green in a tight cotton dress with a cotton slip and apron.”
According to Evanich, “Christine was definitely one of the children’s favorite docents. She created a first-person interpretation of Peter Schmidt, Jr.’s wife Cecelia, complete with a German accent. It really brought life to the children’s Log House experience.”
Log House docent Jude Offerle remembers the fun she and Christine would have impersonating early Winnetka residents during the school group tours. “Christine would always welcome the children into the Log House in German. One day, a child even started speaking German to her. Another time she made me laugh out loud when she answered a child’s question about the Schmidt’s journey to the new world with a comment about ‘Die Disney Cruise.’”
Though still involved with the Log House Christine took on a new role in 2015 when the treasurer position opened up. Her background working in concert finance at Radio City Music Hall convinced the board to elect her for the job. Christine comments: “It took a lot of hours behind the computer working on budgets, balancing the books each month and providing reports to the board and donors, but in the end it was so gratifying. To be on the ground floor of this amazing organization and watching it grow has been truly rewarding.”
Former WHS Executive Director Patti Van Cleave reports: “Working with Christine was wonderful! As an executive director, one hopes for a treasurer that has a good grasp of the budget and expenses. Christine got it.” Current ED Mary Trieschmann agrees: “Christine wholeheartedly supported me in my role as executive director. She was able to give me true insight into our bookkeeping system and we worked together to craft a budget each year that was always spot-on. She will be missed by many but especially by me.”
The Winnetka Historical Society is truly grateful for the dedicated support of volunteers like Christine and we wish her well in her new endeavors.