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Collectors offer trip back in time at museum exhibit

Historic Center hosts first ever personal exhibit day

DIXON – Many area people seem to have a collection of some kind and would love a chance to show if off.

That was the thinking and the inspiration behind the first ever personal collection exhibit Saturday at the Northwest Territory Historic Center in Dixon.

“Everyone has a collection of something and we have nine people here today to exhibit their items,” said Jerry Schnake, who organized the exhibit.

He is a tour guide at the center and also assistant director at the Reagan Home. Schnake and the staff at the Historic Center spent about 6 months fine-tuning the details of putting on the free event, where people were encouraged to bring whatever sort of collection they wanted to show off.

The participants were given a table to display all of their items which included everything from dinosaur fossils, to old yearbooks, a couple of lithographs of George Washington and Queen Elizabeth II and a large assortment of military memorabilia.

Schnake didn’t place many rules on the collections that could be displayed. Basically, if you were proud of it and could get it to the Historic Center, then bring it on over. Holding the exhibit also would provide some exposure and build awareness of the place, he said.

“We had been talking about this for a couple of years and I just decided to do it,” he said. “The original reason is we have a golden gem here in the Historic Center and hardly anyone knows it.”

He recruited his brother-in-law Will Roberts, who brought a sizeable collection of military memorabilia the two had amassed through the years to the show.

“I didn’t realize what we had until we started talking about it,” Roberts said. “The stories all this stuff could tell would be phenomenal.”

Roberts showed off some German army uniforms, a German SS flag that was captured in northern France, a war book from Japan and a small bible that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had issued to every U.S. soldier.

At another table, Connor Ross took people even further back in time. He had a claw fossil from an herbivorous dinosaur that was 26 inches long and several photos of Grand Detour taken through the years. He also had a vial of sand from Omaha Beach that a U.S. soldier had scooped up and saved on D-Day.

John Bailey brought two lithographs representing President George Washington and Queen Elizabeth II. The Washington one is a replica of the painting hanging in the White House.

“It originally was in a courthouse in Cincinnati and the frame is as old as the portrait,” Bailey said.

Meg Schmidt had a bunch of items collected by her parents and her father-in-law on another table. She said she thought the exhibit sounded interesting during a recent visit.

“I came to the museum one day and heard about it and thought this would be a good way to show off this stuff,” she said.

She also had some military items, but a few more things that were much more local including her mom’s 1947 senior yearbook from Dixon High School.

“It’s fun to read the signatures in that and see the words they used back in those days,” Schmidt said.

Her story and reason for coming is exactly why Schnake decided to host the personal collection exhibit. He plans to do it again next year, and hopes for even more cool stuff to be brought inside or even outside the Historic Center.

“It’s the first exhibit but it will grow. I’m looking for vehicles too so it can be stuff that doesn’t have to fit in the building,” Schnake said.

About the center

The Northwest Territory Historic Center can be found at 205 W. Fifth St in Dixon. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The center can be reached at 815-288-5749 or by email at The center also is on Facebook at Northwest Territory Historic Center. There is no admission fee and donations are accepted.

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