Browse Exhibits (12 total)

A Second Home: 150 Years of Student Living at the University of Illinois

Curated by TJ Blakeman and Tom Kuipers

In 1867, a single seminary building was the only structure standing between the cities of Champaign and Urbana. That one building would give way to another and another. Over the next 150 years, Illinois Industrial University, later the University of Illinois, would transform and expand to more than 2.8 square miles and 647 buildings. Over that time the University has become a leader in educating the people of Illinois and the world. 

Each student who arrives at the University of Illinois also arrives as a new citizen of Champaign County. This exhibit, A Second Home, looks at student life through the lens of their rooms. You'll discover how their lives are shaped by technology, social change, and community events around them. This exhibit walks you through student rooms at the time of the University's founding, 50th, 100th, and 150th anniversaries.


Abel Harwood: Pioneer Citizen of Champaign County

Curated by Azaan Qureshi

Abel Harwood (1814-1891) was a pioneer citizen of Champaign County and influential figure in several Central Illinois counties. As a representative of Champaign, Piatt, Moultrie, and Macon counties, he was actively involved in the drafting of the Illinois Constitution in 1870. Harwood is not only famous for his political contributions, but also was widely admired for his noble character who placed the happiness of his family above all else. He is also the former owner of the famous Harwood-Solon house, buying the beautiful property from its developer in 1869, living there with his wife and children until his death in 1891. 

This exhibit is a highlight that showcases the life of Abel Harwood and the story of the Harwood-Solon house that so many in Champaign-Urbana have come to know. 

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Inspirato da Torre di Civita: The Paintings of Marajen Stevick Chinigo

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Marajen Stevick Chinigo was an artist, businesswoman, philanthropist, and master hostess from Champaign County. Through her paintings that are in the collections of the Champaign County History Museum and her contributions as the owner of the News-Gazette, her name is well known by many.

This exhibit focuses primarily on Marajen's Torre di Civita, a profound inspiration for Marajen's work as a painter and the location where she entertained several high-caliber guests. 

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The Art of Louise Woodroofe


Curated by Tom Kuipers

An online exhibit detailing the life and works of artist Louise Woodroofe.

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The Chapin-McNeil Family Letters, 1856-1895


The collection of letters belonging to the Chapin Family expresses the humanity of these individuals in a suite of eighty-two documents. This collection stretches from 1856 to 1895 through some of the most turbulent decades in U.S. history. Taken together they are the story of a family stretched over the course of nearly forty years.

It is a story of the home front, of a collection of documents that were primarily written by and for women. Their letters brought personal beliefs and opinions to life as family members expressed their feelings on numerous aspects of U.S. national politics and their daily lives. Of particular note is Mary Burt's letter "Dear Ones at Home" which discusses her feelings regarding the news of the end of the American Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Through these difficult years the Chapins regularly penned letters to one another to keep in touch over hundreds of miles sharing news of life changes and loss. The Chapins were involved in Champaign County's first forays into public education and bring new insights regarding the lives of school teachers in mid 1800s Central Illinois.

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The Great Harris Mansion Heist: Opulence to Depression, 1929-1933

Curated by TJ Blakeman and Tara Leininger

Sixteen days after the New York Stock Exchange began to collapse on October 26, 1929, throngs of spectators and national dignitaries gathered in Champaign for the much anticipated Illinois vs. Army football game. Later that evening, the young and wealthy socialite Henry Harris hosted an opulent party at his home at 809 West Church Street. Just before 11:00 PM, four assailants entered the mansion and relieved the guests of over $30,000 in cash, furs, and jewelry. The night ended with one assailant killed, one officer injured, and three bandits on the run. Today that heist would equal nearly $500,000. The brazen heist went down in Champaign County history and marked the local end to the roaring 20s. 

"The Great Harris Mansion: Opulence to Depression, 1929-1933" showcases the historic Illini football game, the disastrous mansion heist, and the ensuing arrests, all amidst the growing economic crisis in Champaign County going into the 1930s, exploring the opulence of the party in contrast with the start of the Great Depression.

All items are depicted in this online exhibits through photographs. Various sections throughout the exhibit include multiple images, which can explored by clicking on the photographs. 

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The Illinois Theatre: A Brief History

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Curated by Perry Morris and edited by Philo Wang and Connor Monson

The short life of Urbana's Illinois Theatre began with the city's citizens rallying together to create a first-class theatre.  There were years of success with appearances by famous actors and Urbana's best home-grown talent, followed by years of struggle competing with the newer theatres opened in neighboring Champaign as well as the growing popularity of movies.  The Illinois Theatre came to an end after a few years as the local headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan. 

All phases are covered in this exhibit as history includes events that are quite unpleasant but must not be ignored to fully understand where we came from.

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The Wilber Mansion: The Champaign County History Museum’s First Home


Curated by Madison Story.

Before the Champaign County History Museum moved into its current location at the historic Cattle Bank in 2001, it was located in the Wilber Mansion from December 1974 until 1996. The mansion was built by prominent Champaign residents Robert and Elizabeth Wilber in 1903, and housed the Wilbers and other prominent families until the CCHM purchased it to house and display its collections.


When We Went to War

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Curated by TJ Blakeman and Amina Malik

We know them today as ‘The Greatest Generation,” but seventy-five years ago, they were you, and I, ordinary citizens working to finish school, support their families, and improve their communities. However, Sunday, December 7, 1941, changed all of that, and the world would never be the same. By the end of the Second World War, nearly one-quarter of the nation’s men went to battle, and everyone was caught up in the war effort.

In 1941, the U.S. went to war for the second time in 23 years.  Once again, communities across the country mobilized and united in national pride and determination to support the war effort.  When We Went to War examines life on the homefront in Champaign County, as well as highlights stories of those far from home.

This exhibit takes a chronological look at the country’s role in training and arming a nation at war, the sacrifices on the battlefield, and the hard work and collective dedication of the local population. It also explores the role of the government in managing nearly every aspect of daily life. 

Finally, this exhibit concludes with a look at how the transformation to peacetime changed Champaign County.

Collections of this exhibit range widely. Items include daily material-culture objects, war-time correspondence, uniforms, photographs taken abroad, memrobilia from the 1930s and 40s, and many more. All items are depicted in this online exhibits through photographs. Various sections throughout the exhibit include multiple images, which can explored by clicking on the photographs.