- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

PEKIN, Ill. (AP) - Over the last weekend in August, Christal Dagit was making her last trip to move and downsize. But instead of unpacking dishes and towels, she was carefully unwrapping and finding spots for historic items.

Dagit, of Pekin, is the president of the Tazewell County Museum, which moved to a new location at the Arcade Building, at 15 S. Capital St., Suite 101.

The moving process has taken place over the course of a year from the museum’s former location at Sunset Plaza.

“I had to sort. It took me three-and-a-half months, an entire summer just sorting through stuff,” Dagit said.

The concept of the museum began with Dagit.

“Tazewell County needed a museum. Other counties had them but Tazewell did not. They did have one that dissolved in the 1950s,” Dagit said. “I kept running into people and there was no county museum and they didn’t know what to do with certain items that really had some historic value to the county.”

Dagit, and friends, formed Historic Places on Broadway in Pekin in 1997.

“It was very small. It was only 800 square feet, but it gave us a place to put things … and setting things up,” Dagit said.

From the beginning, Historic Places goal was to establish a museum. The museum was registered with the state and opened its doors in 2003. It has since been established as a not-for-profit organization.

“We’re members of state and federal museum associations,” Dagit said, adding that they have nine volunteers.

“I always liked history. In school, it was always one of my favorite classes. My family’s always been history oriented,” she said.

In one corner of the main room sits an oriental statue that was formerly at the Pekin Theatre, which was dedicated in 1928.

“It was all done in oriental style and the ceiling was painted blue with stars,” Dagit said.

In the opposite corner from the oriental statue is a new item to the museum - a stained glass window from the Carnegie Library, which was finished in 1902 and formerly sat where the current library is now in Pekin.

“The railroad collection is very popular among railroad buffs,” Dagit said. “Currently we have over 6,000 things catalogued.”

The railroad collection contains maps, blueprints, documents, photographs and more.

“When P&PU; went out of business they called me and gave me all of their items,” Dagit said. “When Illinois Terminal went out of business, they gave all of their items to my brother-in-law Gill Siepert, and he, in turn, just before he passed, gave them all to me for the museum.”

Siepert was a teacher at Illinois Central College. Railroad items from another ICC teacher, Fred Soady, were added to the collection.

“So we have a very large railroad collection; that is what I put into the special collections,” Dagit said.

With donations being given to the museum, there is not enough room for everything to be displayed. Some items are kept in storage units and at volunteers’ homes.

“We have a very large military collection. I have 43 uniforms that is being stored at one of our member’s houses. I only have space for five or six here,” Dagit said.

Dagit said she has asked the county for more space for the museum.

“We just have so much. It’s hard to pick favorites. And, of course, we have the NASA collection because we’re a member of the NASA Museum Alliance,” Dagit said.

A smaller room off the main room in the museum is designated for NASA items - including those about Pekin’s native Astronaut Commander Scott D. Altman and some on loan from NASA.

Dagit said after they are settled in, they will again offer children’s classes with a NASA theme.

“One thing NASA sent us is a 12-foot O-ring, which went around the booster rocket. We let the children hold it,” she said.

About a dozen people come to the museum each week. Dagit said they also get groups of school children and boy and Girl Scouts on field trips, as well as many senior citizens.

“We’re hoping in a couple of weeks to have it all put together,” she said.

The museum is free and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Dagit said they offer special showings by appointment. The museum is supported by memberships and donations.

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Source: Pekin Daily Times, http://bit.ly/1QiGoPT

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Information from: Pekin Daily Times, http://www.pekintimes.com

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