There are so many pieces of significant history in our 22-county territory of the state, and many of those historical stories are told through a wide array of museums.
If learning about several different time periods within one museum is more your speed, then the History Museum of Monroe County is a must-visit. Located in Waterloo, this venue features a variety of permanent displays, along with rotating displays and presentations. A fan-favorite is the Allscheid Rock Shelter exhibit, which features a scale model of a rock shelter that is located south of Waterloo and was used by hunter-gatherers 8,000 years ago!
Fans of trains should head to the Historic Flora Train Depot! While there is a museum portion with many different things to see, the main attraction is a 23 foot-long model train display running through a replica of Flora. There is a camera attached to one of the trains, which transmits to a 70-inch screen, giving folks a great view of the inside of the display!
Okawville is home to a cluster of historic homes that make up the Heritage House Museum. Visitors to Dr. Poos home will find an 1893 World’s Fair piano, along with historic medical equipment that belonged to the doctor. At the Schlosser Home, folks can get a good feel of how their grandparents and great-grandparents lived and the tools and treasures they used on a daily basis.
One of the quirkiest, most fun museums you’ll probably ever visit can be found in Greenville. The DeMoulin Museum showcases a large collection of marching band uniforms, made by DeMoulin Brothers and Company out of Greenville, but the unique lodge initiation devices are what have attracted people from over 30 states. Visitors can experience a Bucking Goat, an Invisible Paddle Machine, a Knife Throwing Wall, and much more!
The Illinois Rural Heritage Museum in Pinckneyville is laid out on four acres of land, with over 17,000 square feet of exhibit space, making it one of the largest museums in southern Illinois. From farming equipment to an interactive coal mining exhibit, there is something for folks of all ages to enjoy. The main goal of the Illinois Rural Heritage Museum is to let visitors experience the changing rural lifestyle from 1850 forward.
The Illinois Oil Field Museum in Oblong does a fantastic job of using pictures and artifacts to bring the history of southern Illinois’ oil fields to life.
History buffs that want to spend an entire day soaking in the past can take a trip to Greenup. The Cumberland County History Museum, Cumberland County Military Museum, and Greenup Train Depot and Museum are all within a block’s walk of one another, but they all feature different exhibits and displays that celebrate Cumberland County’s history.
Many folks do not know it, but Robinson is the birthplace of the iconic Heath Bar! The Heath Museum & Confectionary has over 1,000 Heath artifacts on display, including a candy store and soda fountain. The best part, visitors can buy souvenir bags of Heath Bars by the pound!
Another unique museum can be found in Casey. While you’re in town checking out all the Big Things, head to Fairview Park and walk through the USA Softball of Illinois Hall of Fame Museum. Visitors from 49 states and 15 different countries have come to experience all things softball from the state of Illinois!
PC: Gary Adams
Arguably one of the most historic landmarks in Downstate Illinois is tucked away in Randolph County. Fort de Chartres is a French Fortification just outside of Prairie du Rocher, originally built in 1720 as an administrative center for the province. While most of the property has been restored, the original powder magazine still stands and is considered the oldest building in Illinois. The Fort hosts their Rendezvous events each year, drawing thousands of people to take part in several re-enactments and demonstrations.
One look around Vandalia and you’ll find a lot of history pertaining to politics and Abraham Lincoln. The Vandalia State House (also known as the Old State Capitol), is the oldest surviving state capitol building in the state and is significant for its association with Lincoln, who served in the House of Representatives there. Visitors can walk through the State House on their own or set up a tour, depending on the time and season!
For more information on history and museums in Downstate Illinois, click here!