The McHenry County Historical Society Museum complex includes an 1843 log cabin, an 1885 township hall, an 1898 church, and a 2000 graduate of Prairie Ridge High School.
The society hired Kira Halvey at the start of the year to serve as its new exhibit and museum coordinator for its Union museum. Halvey joins the staff, along with new museum Director Kurt Begalka, who succeeded the retiring Nancy Fike, as the society starts gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013.
Senior reporter Kevin Craver asked Halvey what it’s like for a local to get the job of preserving local history.
Craver: How’s it going, starting with one boss and now having another?
Halvey: It’s going great. Nancy’s been here 31 years, so there’s definitely going to be change, but we’re looking forward to it. Our 50th anniversary is next year, so we’re really looking forward to that.
Craver: How are you celebrating?
Halvey: From my end, we have a few featured exhibits at the museum. One of them, set for May 2013, will be a business exhibit, about businesses that started in the ‘60s – we were established in the ‘60s, so we’ll have some fun with the decade.
We also have The James Mobile Museum, with a guest curator exhibit. We’ve invited members and volunteers and people to act as guest curators. They look through our collection and pick out things that have personal interest and significant meaning, and write a personal note about that item. That one opens this October.
Craver: Did [volunteer and retired teacher] Craig Pfannkuche pick out the picture of the great 1973 McHenry fireworks explosion?
Halvey: No, he actually picked a railroad advertising sign for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.
Craver: There’s a story about Craig and that picture. He used to tell students that the picture was from a future nuclear holocaust. If he tries to tell you he’s from the future, don’t buy it. [Halvey laughs.]
Before this job, you were the director of the Byron Museum of History. What’s there in Byron besides the nuke plant?
Halvey: It was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Actually, there were three – two barns and a house built in the 1840s. The house is part of the museum complex, but the barns are no longer standing. And Albert Spalding, of the Spalding sporting goods company [and of Chicago Cubs fame], was born in Byron.
Craver: What do you make of McHenry County’s museum?
Halvey: It’s wonderful here. Everyone made me feel really welcome, and I’m really glad to help preserve the history of the people who live in the county, especially since I grew up here.
Craver: Any favorite exhibits yet?
Halvey: Of course, all the agriculture items we have in the collection, with McHenry County being a big farming county. I’ve also been working with the Don Peasley photo collection, which has numerous agriculture and farm photos.
Craver: I heard about an exhibit honoring local Girl Scouts.
Halvey: The Girl Scouts are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. That was my first big exhibit, which opened in May. We put a call out to area residents and Girl Scout alumnae. We got a tremendous response from people to come out and share their experiences with the county. A lot of our items are on loan from them.
Craver: Any cookies?
Halvey: We did have Girl Scout cookies for the exhibit opening.
Craver: Did the county health department pay you a visit? [A story last year that a health inspector told the museum it would need a $45 permit to serve coffee and cookies caused an uproar.] Ask Nancy about that.
Halvey: [Laughs] No, they were all pre-packaged.
The Halvey lowdown
Who is she? Kira Halvey, exhibit and collection coordinator for the McHenry County Historical Society Museum
Family? Fiancé Adam Lechowicz
Favorite food? Chinese
Favorite book? “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen