News Local/State

History Museum In Tuscola Asks Voters For Tax Support

Sign for the Douglas County Museum in Tuscola.

The sign outside the Douglas County Museum in Tuscola; a yard sign advertising the museum tax referendum can also be seen. Jim Meadows / Illinois Public Media

The local history museum in Douglas County is asking voters to approve a tax referendum to fund the museum’s future.

Board President Judy Landeck says the Douglas County Museum in Tuscola has grown since its beginnings in 1984. She says people who think of it as largely the hobby of a few people interested in old artifacts have the wrong idea.

“It is much, much more than that,” said Landeck. “It is the Douglas County Museum, and hopefully it will remain the home of the history of those who have come before it.”

Landeck says the hiring of Ann Miller as the museum’s first paid director a few years ago helped to boost attendance at the museum to 1,815 visitors last year. In 2012, the year before Miller was hired, annual attendance was at 720.

Landeck says that under Miller’s guidance, the museum has launched new programs for children, including a regular program allowing children to read to a therapy dog, as well as a reptile program.

The Douglas County Museum is currently supported by memberships, grants and donations. Landeck says if voters approve the tax proposal, it would provide additional revenue that would help them keep their director, create new exhibits and programs, and preserve pieces of Douglas County’s history.

The referendum on Tuesday’s ballot in Douglas County would create a county-wide historical museum district with a property tax levy of up to two cents per $100 assessed valuation.  Landeck says the tax would cost most Douglas County homeowners between $5 to $15 a year, creating projected tax revenue of around $70,000 annually.

Landeck says money from the tax might also fund other museums that have been proposed in Douglas County, including an Amish Museum, and a revived Raggedy Ann museum.

According to a 2003 guide published by the former Illinois Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation, Illinois has only one historical museum district, the Byron Museum District in Ogle County. The district operates the Byron Museum of History in Byron, located southwest of Rockford. The museum and the community appear similar in size to the Douglas County Museum and the town of Tuscola.

But Landeck says she’s been looking at a larger history museum for inspiration --- the Dupage County Historical Museum in Wheaton. The museum is owned by the county, but operated by the Wheaton Park District.