Discover more from Stories of the I & M Canal National Heritage Area
The Seneca Area Heritage Museum
The 2023 Canal Boat Captain's Award Honorees - Part 6
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Canal Stories, a series brought to you by the Canal Corridor Association to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Illinois & Michigan Canal and the communities that were shaped by its legacy. We’re continuing our special week-long series highlighting the seven 2023 Honorees who were recognized at our Boat Captain’s Luncheon in April of this year. Today, we’re focusing on the Seneca Area Heritage Museum.
In 2009, a group of 12 people decided to update a 65-page paperback history written for the village of Seneca’s 1965 centennial celebration. This would eventually turn into the Seneca Area Heritage Museum. The original idea was to produce an updated history in time for Seneca’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2015. The group requested information from the community, and soon enough, artifacts, letters, and photographs came flooding in. The city was nice enough to give the committee room to store the artifacts and files. Everyone in the group wrote about something of interest to them, and 428 pages later, the project was complete.
The group also began to create small exhibits for the town’s Shipyard Days, acknowledging their contributions in building Landing Ship Tank Ships for World War II, which instantly changed their small farming community.
At the same time, the Seneca Port District wanted to either tear down or restore the 1912 Seneca Train Station. Soon enough, there were discussions on whether the building could be used as a welcome center or a museum. The Seneca Historical Guild decided that they wanted the building, and the Seneca Port District moved the building across the tracks, constructed a basement, and began restorations. In June of 2016, the Seneca Area Heritage Museum opened with basic exhibits, and they hired an intern to archive the many papers, photos, and artifacts that were collected during their book project with a grant from the Canal Corridor Association.
One of the guild’s founders was a high school teacher, Jeff Maierhofer, who has involved his students in the research and development of many of the exhibits you will find in the museum today. This has truly been a community project. Congratulations to the Seneca Historical Guild, and the citizens and students of Seneca, for establishing and developing the Seneca Area Heritage Museum, and for the archiving of the community’s history.
That concludes today’s Canal Story. Thank you so much for joining us as we continue our journey through the history of the Illinois & Michigan Canal. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, pass it along to your family and friends, and be sure to tune in tomorrow for the seventh and final installment of this spotlight series, featuring the LaSalle County Historical Society. We’ll see you again very soon.
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