Through the museum’s collection we tell the stories of Champaign County and east central Illinois. We have over 26,000 catalogue records which document three dimensional objects, photos, archives, oral histories, photographs, and much more. Keep returning to this page as we present some of our most fascinating collections.
In 1966, William Redhed offered his extensive collection of late 18th and early 19th century artifacts to the Champaign County Forest Preserve District for the purpose of establishing a museum. Redhed’s donation was the founding collection for the Early American Museum (later renamed the Museum of the Grand Prairie) which opened in 1968. The Redhed collection contains 2,663 artifacts. Well represented are agricultural implements, textile tools, culinary and homemaking objects, and a comprehensive collection of about 300 lighting devices.
The Doris K. Wylie Hoskins Archive contains thousands of archival materials related to Champaign County and east central Illinois African American history. Donated in 2007, it is housed at the Museum of the Grand Prairie. Mrs. Doris Baker (Wylie) Hoskins, was born October 18, 1911 in Champaign, Illinois and passed away in September, 2004, in Champaign, Illinois. She volunteered for many years with a number of institutions and organizations including the Committee on African American History in Champaign County, a partner organization of the Early American Museum (now Museum of the Grand Prairie). Serving as the group's archivist, Doris worked with African American families, religious institutions, businesses, and numerous other communities in an effort to establish a collection of historical materials that are now housed at the Doris Hoskins Archive.
Opened in 1917 to train pilots for World War I, Chanute Air Force Base became a primary technical training center for the United States Air Force until Its closure in 1993. Located in Rantoul, Illinois, Chanute helped drive the economy and shape the character of Champaign County for over 75 years. Over its lifespan, over 2 million men and women worked and trained there.
After base closure, the Chanute Air Museum safeguarded and shared the legacy of Chanute Air Force Base. However, that museum closed in 2015, leaving its significant archives and artifact collection in need of new stewards. The Museum of the Grand Prairie accepted the call. Though unable to absorb the entire collection, it acquired a significant portion to help preserve and interpret the legacy of Chanute Air Force Base. The Chanute collection contains approximated 700 artifacts, including technical manuals uniforms, coursework projects, photos, and memorabilia from the men and women who served at Chanute.
In the 1990s, the museum secured a grant from the Illinois Arts Council to begin a field investigation of East Frisian culture in Champaign County. Immigrants from this region of northwestern Germany settled Illinois and Iowa in the nineteenth century. Beginning in the 1870s East Frisian families from western Illinois relocated to northeastern Champaign County and new immigrants from the old country subsequently joined them. Today, the descendants of these people still live in the same communities and on many of the same farms. To learn more about these oral histories, click here.
In 1992, the Museum acquired the Chesebro collection. The contents of the Chesebro blacksmith shop, last operated in 1920 and numbering 2,731 objects, thoroughly document blacksmithing in Eastern Illinois. A comprehensive collection of dolls and toys belonging to the blacksmith’s daughters illuminate the life of a child in the early twentieth century.
In 1986, the Early American Museum (now the Museum of the Grand Prairie) joined with the Land of Lincoln Quilters Association to form the Illinois Quilt Research Project. Over a four year span, the committee traveled to thirty communities throughout the state and registered 15,808 quilts. The resulting publication, History From the Heart: Quilt Paths Across Illinois utilizes the findings of this project as it traces not only quilt history but two centuries of the Prairie State's history.
In 2012, the museum turned over the records for the Illinois Quilt Research Project over to the Illinois State Museum. We continue to enjoy a great relationship with quilters, and are proud to have the opportunity to exhibit the Rankin collection online.
For more information on the Illinois Qulit Research Project, please reach out to Tracy Pierceall at the Illinois State Museum (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Illinois State Museum, Research and Collections Center, 1011 E Ash St, Springfield, IL 62703
Online Information about the project can be found by clicking this link: The Quilt Index