DIXON – Since the Northwest Territory Historic Center opened its interactive exhibits on the second floor last January, nearly 14,000 people have made their way through, a museum official said.
Bill Jones, the museum’s manager and president, said the number could actually be higher, because it doesn’t account for guests who attended weddings at the museum who often tour exhibits.
The $1.6 million exhibits, funded by Ronald Reagan biographer Norman Wymbs in memory of his wife, Harriet, feature life-size, speaking mannequins, detailed sets and sound effects.
The museum, housed in the former Dixon High School where Reagan attended classes, opened the second-floor exhibits about Black Hawk, a famous Native American figure, and early settlement life in the Northwest Territory.
The Northwest Territory was the name for the Midwestern region that included Illinois before it was granted statehood.
Black Hawk, despite a misconception, was never a chief, Jones said, and was instead the leader of the British Band, which was made up of several Native American tribes, during the war of 1812.
The museum, which changed its name this year from the Dixon Historic Center to the Northwest Territory Historic Center, also has historic items more closely tied to Dixon. Those include a signed map from Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, who led an exhibition to Antarctica, and numerous artifacts from Reagan’s life in Dixon and his presidency.
The map, which hangs on a wall in the Walgreen room, includes a message to Charles Walgreen about Byrd naming an Antarctic coastline after the Walgreen family.
The message ends with: “With it goes my affection and regard to the Walgreen family. – Dick Byrd.”
In one of the several rooms dedicated to Reagan hangs the flag that flew at half-staff over the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives after Reagan died. The flag was given to the museum, Jones said, by former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
Up next for the museum, Jones said Friday, is a temporary exhibit that could be brought in for 5 or 6 weeks during next year’s holiday season. The exhibit topic and duration, he said, will depend on what the museum can afford.
About the museum
Northwest Territory Historic Center
205 W. Fifth St., Dixon
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
For more info: www.DixonHistoricCenter