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  • "Working for a Living" new museum exhibit
    Posted On: Aug 31, 2018

    A new permanent exhibit, Challenges, Choices & Change: Working for a Living, opens Saturday, September 8, 1 p.m. at the McLean County Museum of History, 200 N. Main Street, Bloomington, Illinois.  A trades & skills fair is planned around the Old Courthouse Square from 1:30 - 4 p.m. and the evening before.

    The new exhibits highlights over 80 local workers and their daily on-the-job experience.  Pioneer merchants, railroaders, craft workers, factory workers, computer technicians and even entertainers are all included, complete with vintage photographs, video clips and interactives.  Three major technological changes transformed local the economy and work life: 1850s railroads, 20th century highways and today’s electronic revolution.   How and where people worked was profoundly altered by these technologies.  Over 20 union members are included in the exhibit.

    “By looking at individuals, we are able to tell some unique stories,” said exhibit guest curator Mike Matejka.   “To survive, people have to find employment.  How do they master the job skills, what choices do they make and what happens when economic or technical change makes their job obsolete or creates profound changes?  Through looking at individual stories, we are able to trace those very human stories over the last 180 years.”

    Through the exhibit are many “tools” that the workers featured used: giant wrenches, tool chests, a telephone switchboard, a computer key punch machine and even a baseball from the first World’s Series.

    The exhibit will formally open with a ribbon-cutting at 1 p.m.  At 2 p.m. that day, guest curator Matejka will deliver a lecture on the exhibit and its formulation.  Meanwhile, outside the Museum in the Courthouse Square from 1:30 - 4 p.m., there will be hands-on, family interactive booths to learn about different trades and careers, from a fire truck to a city bus to construction GPS siting systems.

    During Bloomington’s “First Friday” events the night before, on September 7, the Museum will host Illinois State University’s “Fix in Friday” to show how to mend clothing; “make your own” ice cream sundaes and lemonade; and demonstrations by artisans, including a potter, weaver and a rug maker.  

    The McLean County Museum of History is accredited with the American Alliance of Museum and was recently voted the fourth best museum in Illinois, according to the “Top 200” poll for Illinois’ bicentennial.

    Leading up to the event, the Museum is inviting to send in their own “on the job” photo.  Send it to:    #workingforalivingmc #work

    The events are free and open to the public. Free parking is available on the Museum Square and surrounding streets, or at the Lincoln Parking Deck located on Front Street. For more information, please contact Museum's public relations director Jeff Woodard at or 309-827-0428; guest curator Mike Matejka is available at 309-208-1120,

    Do you have a photo from your work life to share?  Send it to:    #workingforalivingmc #work

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