Historical Society Urges Support Through Membership

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The classroom of Forest Blvd School, where members of the Historical Society show how the first school in Park Forest was in the rental units. (Photo: Elaine U. Brownlee)

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– The Park Forest Historical Society urges people to support the society by joining its membership. Membership is open to people living in Park Forest, those who have lived in Park Forest, or to those interested in the history of Park Forest even as it is being made. In other words anyone interested in the village any facet of it is urged to join. The society always accepts donations toward its mission, but at this seminal time, they really need the support of a large membership.

Archivist Jane Nicoll says, "As I rode in the Hall of Fame car in the 4th of July Parade, I saw whole families of long-time residents and enthusiastic faces of new residents. I know many of these people have never joined the society, even though they treasure Park Forest. Now is the time for everyone who loves Park Forest to show that support by joining the society."

The Park Forest Historical Society has faced many challenges in the past year.

The Archive which has been owned by and housed at the Park Forest Public Library since 1981 is to become the property of the historical society when they can secure a permanent home for the collection.

In January 2007, due to flooding of the library’s basement, the Archive was packed and stored in two PODS units and put in remote storage. There is no access to this valuable collection of primary resources on Park Forest history.

In May 2007, the society lost its lease to the 1950s Park Forest House Museum, formerly known as the 50th Anniversary House Museum. The museum collection is now in PODS storage. The society also lost use of the unit they were using since 2006 for rotating exhibits and office space. When the library collection was packed up, the society moved the Digital Lab equipment and the boxes containing the extensive photograph collection, and some of the most often consulted files to the office unit. Those boxes are now in PODS storage, but were packed in such a way that the society can gain access to most of them.

Moving the museum collection cost $3,000. Storage of the two society PODS costs more than $300 a month. The society needs the financial support that simple memberships can give them.

The Local History Collection which contains copies of a fraction of the materials in the Archive is still available to the public in the library. There are oral history transcripts which can be checked out, copies of early scrapbooks made by the developers and by District 163 personnel, and books written about Park Forest or about city planning in the mid-Twentieth Century. For people wanting an introduction to Park Forest history, there are two large boxes of things like articles and village anniversary commemorative issues of newspapers full of stories to get you started. There are 200+ files in the library on topics like, American Community Builders (the developers), Architecture, Churches, Biographies, Organizations, Schools, and the history of the Shopping Center and Downtown. One box of photographs is still at the library. You can sit in the reference area and browse the photos of the early days of Park Forest’s development, including construction photos. If you are researching Park Forest, and the library staff can’t find what you need, they will refer the question to the archivist or to another society board member.

The society now faces the task of not only finding a permanent home for the Local History Collection and Archive but also of finding a new space for the museum and an office space to headquarter the society.

If you lived in Park Forest in the early days, if you have just moved here and can tell it is a special place, if you study or teach Park Forest history, or you believe in what Park Forest stands for, JOIN. Your membership dollars will help the society preserve the history of this unique place. The society needs a much larger membership base to remain viable and to accomplish the tasks ahead.

If you have a talent or time to offer to the society, call President Therese Goodrich or Vice-President Jerry Shnay to volunteer. The society needs the second and third generation of Park Foresters to "get on board to carry out its mission of making Park Forest history available for many generations to come.