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An awesome Chicagoland museum you've never heard of...

With the rain on Memorial Day, our goal was to find something cheap, indoors, fun for the kids, and not horribly crowded. We're actually pretty good as a family at finding free, obscure museums. Call it a hobby. Sometimes I'm afraid to even mention them because they're often hidden gems that we like to have all to ourselves. But this one was so impressive that I'm highlighting it.

It's called the Raupp Museum and it's located...well...in the middle of a suburban housing subdivision. The land it sits on was donated with the stipulation that it be turned into either a library or museum so the Buffalo Grove (northwest suburbs) Park District runs it. The galleries, especially the Main Gallery, are top notch for such a small, local museum. There's a mix of low-tech hands-on with artifacts and displays telling the--weird, fascinating, unique?--history of Buffalo Grove. (I think our village is more interesting with an even better story and here's to hoping our new historical society museum gets off the ground and at least matches the Raupp.)

The history of the area is told from Potawotami natives to pioneer life and eventual 20th century boom. You learn fascinating things like residents paying their store bills in eggs. To me, probably the best sections are on more recent history where it's rare to find people who can tell their not-so-distant story with the amount of perspective taken in the exhibit. The postwar Baby Boom saw most of Buffalo Grove's adults in the age range of 30ish and a huge chunk of the population under 10. The new houses springing up went so quickly that prices would rise $1000 after selling half the homes in one week.

But one thing lacking in the town was a grocery store. Even in the 20th century there wasn't enough business to have a barber shop so the barber would moonlight as a bartender. The bowling alley--built by a former Chicago Bear--would become the social focus of the town along with the many clubs and civic organizations. The information relates the experience of living in a mid-20th century American "new" suburb with a fairly nice balance. It's not placed in a larger context and left up to the museum-goer to decide how we should feel about this period of rapid growth.

Your kids are going to get a kick out of everything from a pig oiler (yes, this farm device stumped me) to weighing items in the general store. There are old telephones, typewriters, and the current temporary exhibit downstairs has a toy bowling set to keep the young ones occupied. You can also create a telegraph message in Morse Code, milk a replica dairy cow, and put a loaf of pretend bread into a bread box.

If you go, the museum is easily accessible from Lake Cook Rd. and the dead-end of Route 53/I-290. But I suggest having a GPS route ready because it requires some turns in a local neighborhood. There are a few signs, but the museum parking is behind the building and up a small hill so it's hidden. Hours are posted on the Raupp Museum website.

Comments

  1. Great review Kyle- just what small museums want to hear from their visitors. Sounds like a great place and great for the kids.
    If you hear anything about your historical society museum getting off the ground- you know an archivist/curator/exhibit designer interested in a potential job! ;)

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