Metro-East News

‘Belleville Bicentennial 200’ exhibit wins Illinois museum award

Bonnie Keel, of Belleville, is reflected in the mirror of a vintage vanity table from a Belleville beauty salon at the “Belleville Bicentennial 200” exhibit that was at the Schmidt Art Center in 2014.
Bonnie Keel, of Belleville, is reflected in the mirror of a vintage vanity table from a Belleville beauty salon at the “Belleville Bicentennial 200” exhibit that was at the Schmidt Art Center in 2014. News-Democrat

The “Belleville Bicentennial 200” exhibit has won the Illinois Association of Museums award for excellence in special projects.

The exhibit consisted of 200 objects solicited mainly from the public that were used to tell Belleville’s history in five chapters — Belleville begins, grows, plays, works and serves, said Will Shannon, curator of the St. Clair County Historical Society. It also included photgraphs, a multimedia slide show and a recorded audio introduction to each chapter that visitors could listen to on iPads with headphones.

“About 5,000 people came through the door to view the exhibit during the six weeks it was at the Schmidt (Art Gallery at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville),” Shannon said. “The people at Schmidt said that is about 10 times what they usually get at a show.”

The exhibit was a collaborative effort of the St. Clair County Historical Society, the Belleville Labor & Industry Museum, the Belleville Historical Society, the Gustave Koerner House, the Schmidt Art Center and the St. Clair County Genealogical Society.

Most of the objects in the exhibit have been returned to their owners. But photographs and an extensive catalogue of the exhibit are available at the St. Clair County Historical Society Museum.

The prestigious award will be presented at the Illinois Association of Museums conference on Sept. 25 in Springfield.

Shannon’s favorite part of the exhibit? “The item that I and everyone else seemed to connect with was a snare drum from the Civil War,” he said. “It was used by the 43rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which was mostly men from Belleville. Names of the drummers, three of them, were written on the drumhead. The three boys, probably no older than 13 or 14, were killed while carrying the drum. Everybody stopped to look at it. It had a lot of impact.”

The drum is in the private collection of Bob Mohrman, of Smithton.

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