Museum of the Grand Prairie’s Complex Legacy for African Americans, Part One

Museum of the Grand Prairie’s Complex Legacy for African Americans, Part One

Smile Politely

Published Date: July 28, 2020

Currently, museums and communities alike are grappling with the dual pandemics impacting African Americans: COVID-19 and social uprisings after the killing of George Floyd. Thus, an examination of the Museum of the Grand Prairie (MGP) — a museum in Champaign County located in Mahomet, Illinois with a significant collection of African American exhibits and artifacts — seemed timely.

According to the ​Champaign County Forest Preserve District 2019 Working Budget​, MGP, which opened in 1968 and was accredited by the ​American Alliance of Museums​ since 1972, “has provided cultural and historical interpretation and educational programs to the people of Champaign County and beyond through the CCFPD for 50 years.”

Before the museum closures due to COVID-19, MGP was open seven days a week, ten months per year, with extended hours in the summer. The museum saw over 12,000 visitors and an additional 8,000 school children per year who enjoyed exhibits and programs.

In my conversation about the impacts of COVID-19 on MGP, the museum's Director, Barbara Garvey, recalled, “We closed on March 13th as we were in the height of the field trip season. We usually see 10,000 kids a year. So we lost all of those field trip visitors and related revenue. However, we are fortunate to be a part of the Forest Preserve Districts and have some grants to offset the loss of revenue. However, the inability to touch lives is an incalculable loss."