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Peoria Riverfront Museum will preserve Illinois tornado stories

Published: Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014 11:34 p.m. CST

PEORIA – The November storm that sent about two dozen tornadoes ripping across Illinois left behind destruction and many harrowing tales.

A museum in Peoria wants to be sure the stories of those who lived through the Nov. 17 storm aren’t forgotten.

The Peoria Riverfront Museum is inviting those whose lives were affected, including residents and first responders, to come to the museum from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday to share their stories with one another and have them recorded.

“We’re not like the Red Cross, but there is a role for museums,” museum President and Chief Executive Sam Gappmayer said Friday. “Stories are central to history, and history is central to what we do.

“This is a historic moment for the region and for the communities that got hit in such a devastating way,” he told the Peoria Journal Star.

The storm killed seven people in Illinois and damaged or destroyed thousands of homes and buildings.

Participants in Monday’s program can take turns recording five-minute oral histories in an audio booth and take part in recorded sessions for families and small groups with no time limits.

Others can talk in a group setting, where their remarks will not be recorded but where they can share their thoughts with people who went through similar experiences.

Photos and videos will also be accepted.

The museum plans to use the material gathered for a program on the one-year anniversary of the storm. It might also establish a permanent exhibit.

Those unable to attend Monday can visit the museum later to share their accounts of the storm.

“We’re not really counselors,” Gappmayer told the Journal Star. “On the other hand, I think there is value in sharing those experiences, or there can be for some people.”

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