It’s final. The Riverside Historical Museum is closed for the duration of the historic water town renovation, just underway in Centennial Park in downtown Riverside. By mid April, all of the museum’s exhibits will be hauled out of the museum, housed in one of the tower’s original well houses and put in storage until the work is completed.
One of the collection’s most celebrated pieces, a chandelier from the Louis Sullivan-designed Henry Babson Estate, was shipped to the Art Institute of Chicago, where it will be on loan for the next year.
Suzanne Bartholomew, director of the Riverside Historical Museum, said she’s unsure exactly which storage facility will be used to house the collection while the restoration work is being completed. Village Manager Kathleen Rush, who is handling the storage details, is out of town and could not be reached for comment.
Bartholomew said that the storage facility will be temperature-controlled and is said to have been used previously by the Art Institute of Chicago for storage.
Before the museum’s collection is packed up, however, representatives from the National Park Service will be using the museum’s “structures” files as they work to complete a survey of buildings for the village’s application to maintain its status on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
In 1970, a century after it was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the village was designated a National Historic Landmark for its landscape architecture. However, the National Park Service was never able to complete a survey of all the village’s buildings. On March 21, the village board voted to spend $19,000 to survey every one of the village’s 3,000 buildings. The museum has a file on each one.
“The delay was caused to allow us to accommodate the National Park Service, which had planned to come in to update [our application] for landmark status,” Bartholomew said.
“It came down to two scenarios. One was to move the collection into storage and accommodate them at the storage facility. But we thought that was less safe [to the collection] than this. It would be very difficult to deal with all the structure files in boxes. It would be significantly better to close things up and crate them.”
According to Bartholomew, April 18 is the date tentatively set as moving day for the collection.
“It’s going to be an extensive project,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll be able to complete the part that requires access [to the files] by then. I think we can do that without aggravating the construction workers.”
Residents who wish to contact the Riverside Historical Commission while the museum is closed can call 447-2542 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone who would like to donate items to the museum can get more information by calling village hall at 447-2700.