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Hidden treasures found in historical archives

 Lake County Discovery Museum 27277 Forest Preserve Drive 
Wauconda. |  Courtesy photo

Lake County Discovery Museum, 27277 Forest Preserve Drive, Wauconda. | Courtesy photo

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First in a series of stories about historic treasures that can be found at Lake County Discovery Museum, 27277 N. Forest Preserve Road, Wauconda.

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Updated: September 9, 2013 7:21PM

WAUCONDA — Pieces of Lake County’s history in all manner of sizes, shapes and variety occupy Lake County Discovery Museum’s archive space.

Thousands of documents and photographs are stored neatly in file cabinets and hundreds of objects are stored by function in carefully controlled storage rooms.

“It’s normal for museums to have only 10 percent of their collection on display at a time,” collections coordinator Diana Dretske said.

The majority of the museum’s collection came from donations of all sorts, she said.

The archives hold furniture, fine china that belonged to former Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson’s mother, Civil War uniforms and ceremonial pieces from Native Americans, to name a few.

“We’re looking for items related to Lake County. We try to find things that enhance what we already know,” Dretske said.

Several typewriters have been donated, but the museum wants pieces that have a history, she said.

A typewriter was donated fairly recently. It was accepted because of who it belonged to and how it was used, Dretske said. The manual typewriter was used by Ethel Haines of Gurnee who taught in Gurnee, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff in the 1920s and 1930s. The Royal typewriter is from the 1930s, Dretske said.

It has not been on display in the museum yet, but would be part of a school exhibit, Dretske said.

A committee selects which pieces will go on exhibit, Dretske said. Not everything in archives is exhibit-ready — items have to be sorted, stored and some have to be restored and cleaned before they’re ready.

The museum has three full-time and two part-time staffers to deal with the archives and object collections, said Christine Pyle, manager of historical resources.

New donations arrive on a weekly basis, making it difficult to keep up with donations, Pyle said.

“We have a huge backlog. People drop off hundreds of items. We have volunteers who help,” Pyle said.

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