June 17, 2019

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy see a Smithsonian exhibit without traveling to Washington D.C. “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” is on display at the DeKalb County History Center until June 22. This is the last stop in Illinois.


“Crossroads: Change in Rural America” is part of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program. The History Center was only one of six locations to host this exhibit in Illinois. According to their website, the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) is a Smithsonian outreach program that engages small town audiences and brings revitalized attention to under served rural communities.  They partner with state humanity councils to bring traveling exhibitions, educational resources and programming to small towns across America through their own local museums, historical societies and other cultural venues. Their exhibits are designed to engage communities and become a catalyst for conversation about life in small-town America.  The goal is to start dialogs, build excitement, facilitate connections, and open doors to community history, culture, people, and sense of local pride. Since 1994, they have visited nearly 1,600 communities with a median population of 8,000. In addition, they curate and publish an online collection of community-sourced stories through our Stories from Main Street initiative, which include stories from DeKalb County.


What makes this display unique, is the close ties between a national story and local history. “Our local exhibit features stories about the Pottawatomie, barbed wire, community festivals, agricultural innovations, FFA, 4-H, one room schools, as well as addressing current issues like solar and wind power. Not only are these interesting stories, there are wonderful artifacts from throughout the county that help visitors connect to our past,” explained Michelle Donahoe, the History Center’s Executive Director. “There area also a variety of interactives and a scavenger hunts for our younger visitors, really making this a destination for all ages,” she continued. Visitors are also encouraged to check out the 20 plus history organization in the county that have even more artifacts and stories connected to the themes explored in "Crossroads."


This exhibit was made possible through the generosity of many people and organizations. The History Center greatly appreciates the support of Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, Illinois Humanities, Douglas C. and Lynn M. Roberts Family Foundation, Northwestern Medicine, Shaw Media, OC Creative, Banner Up, Swedberg & Associates, First Midwest Bank, First State Bank, First National Bank, Resource Bank and Berro Plumbing. 


The DeKalb County History Center is located at 1730 N. Main Street. Hours are Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 – 5:00. The Museum on Main Street's section of the "Crossroads" exhibit will be up until June 22. The exhibit space will be closed from June 23 - June 26. On June 27 several new and larger artifacts will be added to the DeKalb County section of the exhibit and will be on display until March 2020. For more information visits or call 815-895-5762.







April 16, 2019

Volunteer Training at the DeKalb County History Center


Interested in your community’s history?  Like talking to people?  Don’t like talking to people, but like looking at old artifacts, photographs and letters?  Then join the DeKalb County History Center for a volunteer orientation on Saturday, April 20. 9:30 at the Sycamore Public Library. Don’t feel you have to be an expert in local history to participate.

All volunteers, new and old, are encouraged to attend. During the training volunteers will be given an overview of the plans for the Smithsonian exhibit “Crossroads: Change in Rural America,” related programs, and the Joiner History Room. Then, Lisa Dietrich from Network of Nations will also present. Topics such as volunteer etiquette and how to sign up to help out will be covered.

Why volunteer? With the expanded hours of the History Center, additional volunteers are needed to help greet guests and assist at the Joiner History Room. The History Center is looking for people to volunteer from 10:00 - 5:00 Tuesday - Saturday and 1:00 – 5:00 on Sundays (Sunday hours are only May 19 – June 16 while the Smithsonian exhibit is on display).  Greeters, program assistants and docents (tour guides) are needed. “Behind the scenes” volunteers are also key for databasing project, filing, copying, researching, and writing projects.  There are also special events where your help is only needed for a few hours once a year.

"Volunteering at the History Center is a great way to learn more about where you live.  You not only discover your community’s history, but you get to meet out-of-town visitors, scout groups, as well as local residents and their families.  The History Center will provide you with the training on working with the public, giving tours, researching, etc.  If you have some time and want to make an investment in where you live, this is the perfect opportunity,” explained Michelle Donahoe, Executive Director.

Please call if you would like additional information 815-895-5762 or info@dekalbcountyhistory,org.  The DeKalb County History Center is located at 1730 N. Main Street in Sycamore. The grand opening is planned for Saturday, May 11, 2019.


March 18, 2019

Celebrate National Volunteer Month with the DeKalb County History Center

April is National Volunteer Month! Ever wonder what it would be like to volunteer in a museum or archives? Now is your chance to discover the variety of volunteer opportunities at the DeKalb County
History Center. With extended hours and a new space, the History Center needs more volunteers. From reception to research, from leading tours to helping with gardening or building repair, they can use your talents. Two informational sessions are scheduled in April – one at the Sycamore Public Library and one at the DeKalb Public Library.
Sharing your time through volunteering will allow you to be a part of an organization that inspires curiosity in DeKalb County’s history and to share your talents with other dedicated volunteers. “With the new building, traveling Smithsonian exhibit, and expanded hours, we need more volunteers. After the general information meeting, there will be a variety of training sessions depending on specific area of interest. We are asking volunteers commit to working once every two weeks. We are also encouraging students in fifth grade or older be a junior docents (or tour guides),” explained Michelle
Donahoe, the History Center’s Executive Director. She continued, “Some jobs will be simple, such as the reception area. Other positions, such as working in the Joiner History Room or in the artifact
collection will require in-depth training over a period of time.”
To learn more about the variety of opportunities, the public is invited to two informational programs. The first information meeting will be held at the DeKalb Public Library, 309 Oak Street in DeKalb, on April 1, 2019 at 7:00 PM and the second program will be held at the Sycamore Public Library, 103 E State Street in Sycamore, on Saturday, April 6, 2019 at 10:00 AM. The DeKalb County History
Center, located at 1730 N. Main Street in Sycamore. Starting May 14 their hours will be Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 – 5:00, and Sunday 1:00 – 5:00. After the Smithsonian exhibit leaves, regular
hours will be Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 – 5:00. For more information, call 815-895-5762, visit, or email

March 18, 2019

DeKalb County History Center Selected for Smithsonian Educational Initiative with Local High School Students

The DeKalb County History Center announced that it was selected to create one of sixteen projects nationwide for the Smithsonian’s Stories from Main Street: Youth Engagement and Skill-building Program (Stories: YES). The program is a collaboration between youth and the History Center to develop stories around the theme of the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibition “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” on display from May 11 – June 22.

Stories: YES participants weave national narratives from the exhibition into the history of their own hometown by conducting research and interviews to create a project highlighting their community. The program engages kids with regional history and contemporary local issues, while providing an opportunity to use professional equipment and learn real-world skills. Youth projects will be displayed in the History Center’s exhibit and their digital stories will be shared on Museum on Main Street’s website at The History Center will keep the equipment purchased through the program and continue to make it available for student access for future projects.

 The DeKalb County History Center is excited about this pilot project because it allows students to have a voice in their history. They are exploring the question “What is the future of agriculture in DeKalb County.” With some guidance, students from Sycamore High School and Hinckley-Big Rock will be researching, writing questions, interviewing, recording, and editing these videos. The key to the program is partnerships: students in FFA, History Club and Sycamore’s Spartan TV are all working together to complete the videos. OC Creative hosted students to provide them with an opportunity to learn some professional insights into video and editing.

Funding for Stories: YES is generously provided to Museum on Main Street (MoMS) with internal Smithsonian Institution support from the Smithsonian Youth Access Grants Program. MoMS is a partnership between the Smithsonian institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and state humanities councils. It was created to serve museums, libraries and historical societies in rural areas, where one-fifth of all Americans live. SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for over 65 years. It connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For more information, including exhibition descriptions and tour schedules, visit


For more information about “Crossroads” visit the DeKalb County History Center’s website, or call 815-895-5762.