Wabash County Museum District was formed on January 7, 1991 after the voters
of Wabash County passed a referendum creating a museum district in November
1990. A board of 5 was appointed on that date by the Wabash County Commissioners
to serve as museum district commissioners. Also on that date Dr. Gerald Burkett
and his wife Sue donated the historic house at 119 West Third Street, Mt. Carmel,
IL which the museum now occupies, to the district and the people of Wabash County
for their use as a museum. Dr. Burkett had used the building as his dental office
while constructing a new office next door. The building is called The Burkett
House, Wabash County Museum, in honor of the family.
Later that year, Quentin Blair donated the home of his sister, Nordica Kelly,
to the museum district after Nordica's passing. The parlor of the Burkett House
was dedicated as the Blair-Kelly parlor at the museum's grand opening in 1992.
The house was sold in June 2005 to provide a downpayment on the new museum at
320 N. Market Street
The Wabash County Historical Society, formed in 1965, gathered artifacts and
opened a museum in May 1974. Sadly that museum could not continue to operate.
Historical Society members worked to inform the voters of the county about the
need for a museum district and were instrumental in getting the referendum passed.
After the creation of the district, the entire historical society collection
was donated to the museum district. The two organizations continue to operate
as sister organizations, although separate financially and organizationally.
The creation of a museum district, enabled by Illinois statute, gives the museum
district the power to levy a small tax to support its work. The allowed tax
rate is .01 per hundred dollars of assessed valuation within the district. Tax
money levied for 1999 is received in 2000. The people of Wabash County donated
$30,000 in cash and in kind for the renovation of the Burkett House in 1991.
The museum hires a part-time curator and uses volunteers to assist in its work.
Volunteers are always welcome. Donations of artifacts, which tell the county's
history are always welcome, providing space allows. In the summer of 2005 a
dream of building an archive to house the collection and expanded exhibit and
programing space became a reality when the Board purchased the former Cowling-Witsman
furniture store from Dennis Griggs. Minor renovations gave about 12,000 square
feet for exhibit space as well as secure archive space, research library, shop
for messy work, offices, additional bathrooms, and handicapped accessibility.