DuPage’s Heritage Gallery needs to better reflect the area’s historical past, some say

A historical past exhibit that occupies a key first-floor hallway in the DuPage County authorities administration constructing in Wheaton is the topic of an effort to replace it, together with probably profiling a extra various set of achievers all through the county’s historical past.

Known as the Heritage Gallery, the exhibit was created in 1980 in a first-floor atrium hallway that hyperlinks two elements of DuPage’s large authorities administration constructing, 421 N. County Farm Road, and that’s in a public portion of the constructing. The Heritage Gallery was fashioned as a approach of celebrating famous DuPage County natives, and amongst these receiving recognition in thegallery are soccer nice Harold “Red” Grange, evangelist Billy Graham, astronomer Grote Reber, opera singer Sherrill Milnes, industrialist and gambler John W. “Bet-A-Million” Gates, writer Anna Landon and Tribune writer Col. Robert R. McCormick.

A privately funded nonprofit group, DuPage Heritage Gallery Inc., at one time was behind the formation and upkeep of the Heritage Gallery. However, in recent times, the group has change into moribund, with some board members passing away, and others of their 90s. With that group’s efficient disbanding, representatives of its remaining trustees agreed to deed possession and upkeep of the exhibit to the DuPage County Department of Public Works in fall 2020, mentioned DuPage County Board member Dawn DeSart, D-Aurora.

Now, Becky Simon of Naperville, a member of the League of Women Voters, is asking for main modifications to the Heritage Gallery, which although extremely seen hasn’t had an addition or an replace since 1991.

“It’s the gallery of (mostly) famous white men only,” Simon advised the Tribune. “It’s all white Christian hetero(sexual) people, and it completely overlooks some of the most amazing stories there have been in DuPage County. We feel that there are many, many people who have been overlooked, and it’s time to give them their due.”

DeSart acknowledged that regardless of the Heritage Gallery’s comparatively outstanding location, she wasn’t conscious of the exhibit’s existence till the fall of 2019, when Simon approached her after a DuPage County Board meeting to elevate the concern. Since that point, a small group of group leaders who need the gallery to be extra various and inclusive, together with DeSart and Simon, has been meeting, and people efforts culminated in the county taking up possession of the Heritage Gallery in 2020.

DeSart mentioned her group continues to meet and to research the origins of the gadgets in the gallery. Paperwork associated to the gallery and its artifacts is housed in a number of areas, together with at the DuPage County Historical Museum in Wheaton and at Wheaton College’s Buswell Memorial Library, she mentioned. The group just lately spent a day at every location, learning paperwork and in search of to confirm the provenance of all artifacts in the exhibit.

Ultimately, DeSart mentioned she favors an replace to the gallery. She famous that the native National Organization for Women chapter wrote a letter to the Wheaton Daily Journal newspaper in March 1989, requesting that the gallery be extra inclusive. At current, Landon is the solely girl featured in the show.

“The gallery has been stagnant since 1991, and our little group would like to have it become more of a ‘destination’ location,” DeSart mentioned. “This is a small group of DuPage County community leaders who want the gallery to be more diverse, inclusive and representative of DuPage County residents, and I could not agree more. This gallery must include all of DuPage County’s beautiful mosaic of faiths, colors, sexes, etc.”

DeSart acknowledged challenges to her group’s objectives, nonetheless. She famous that she is an ally of the LGBTQ group, together with serving on Naper Pride’s board of administrators, and that she favors illustration of that group in the exhibit.

“I would love to see that community represented in the gallery, but when speaking with members of that community, it’s a challenge because many in 2022 are afraid to out themselves, let alone trying to find historical DuPage County figures who were out 50 years ago, at the time of the Stonewall riots in 1969.”

The chair of the county’s Public Works Committee, County Board member Mary Ozog, D-Glen Ellyn, mentioned she additionally helps updating the exhibit and making it “more contemporary.”

“This would be a really nice segue between the two corridors to update it and make it more relevant to who DuPage County is today,” Ozog mentioned. “I’m very much in favor of doing what we can to update it. There are always budget constraints and certainly we want to be sensitive to various groups, but we could consider perhaps doing a rotating type of exhibit. But as for updating it, I’m completely in support, so we’ll see what we are able to do with it.”

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, a Republican, declined to weigh in particularly on whether or not or not to broaden the Heritage Gallery. In a press release, Cronin mentioned that “if members of the Public Works Committee develop a specific proposal regarding the Heritage Gallery, I’m sure their fellow board members and I will give it careful consideration.”

Bob Goldsborough is a contract reporter.

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