Featured Partner: Kenosha History Center

12/24/2016 - Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

Arts & Culture, Downtown, Family-Friendly, Featured Partner, History
Peter Pirsch fire truck, Rambler Gallery, Kenosha History Center
toy exhibit, Kenosha History Center
one room schoolhouse, Yesteryear Gallery, Kenosha History Center
Rambler Gallery, Kenosha History Center

There are people who find history to be a thing of the past – stuffy, boring, and old. That is the exact stigma that incoming Executive Director of the Kenosha History Center, Chris Allen, strives to demolish.  From exhibits featuring vintage cars manufactured in the Kenosha area years ago to a miniature Statue of Liberty, there is something for everyone to enjoy and learn from in this museum, located at 220 51st Place on Simmons Island.

The Kenosha County Historical Society was founded in 1878 to preserve, research, and present the cultural heritage of Kenosha County and Southeastern Wisconsin. Just 43 years after Kenosha (then Southport) was founded as a community, the need was clear to document and preserve the unique culture in our region. Now, with over 100 years of historic collections – ranging from newspapers to automobiles – the society’s museum is still finding new and innovative ways to tie the past to the present.

Among the collections, artifacts that are housed at the Kenosha History Center date back to 1835. A visit to the Yesteryear Gallery and Lyman Gallery will take you on a tour of what Kenosha was like from the time people settled here through 1900. You'll see a General Store, Barbershop, One Room School, a Photography studio and Millinery shop. More modern artifacts on display include rotating mini galleries that feature things like baseball memorabilia and toy collections. The Rambler Legacy Gallery pays tribute to Kenosha’s auto-making history, which shaped the community through the 20th Century. Currently, Cars of the Decades is on display through September 2017 and features Kenosha-specific automobiles (Jeffery, Nash, AMC) from the 1900’s until the 1970’s.

Since automobile manufacturing played such a large role in Kenosha culture, the Kenosha History Center hosts a car show every three years to welcome vehicles with ties to Kenosha home. One of the largest car shows of its kind, attendees can expect to see a variety of vehicles including Nash, Hudson, AMC, Renault, Jeep, and Chrysler models. 2017 is a Kenosha Homecoming Car Show year and plans are in progress for it to be the biggest show yet. Over the course of five days, visitors can enjoy cars on display, a car parade, an ice cream social, and much more.

Beyond artifacts, the Kenosha History Center houses an extensive archives collection that includes daily newspapers, area yearbooks, genealogy records and much more. Local residents and visitors to the area can make an appointment with the staff archivist to explore their family and/or industrial history, and conduct research. Authors, filmmakers, students, businesses, and individuals have utilized the materials in the archives for various projects and research over the years. 2016 marked the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce’s 100th Anniversary – Chamber staff members worked with the museum staff to find photos of historic Kenosha businesses for marketing materials and presentations during their anniversary year. Images from the historic photos collection can also be seen on display at The Coffee Pot diner in Downtown Kenosha. “We’ve worked with individuals to create photo displays locally and as far away as Hong Kong,” Chris shared.

The museum, which also includes a gift shop, offers many volunteer opportunities and welcomes adult and school group tours, as well as new members. It’s a well-known stop on the local third grade field trip circuit. The museum also offers third grade students the opportunity to experience a day in a one-room schoolhouse - at 1906 Pike River School, located on the grounds of Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary & Arboretum. In addition, the Kenosha History Center operates the seasonal Southport Light Station Museum (with the Southport Lighthouse available to climb).

There is no question that the Kenosha History Center does a great job of preserving Kenosha’s past. Looking to the future, Chris aims to “engage all ages, and people of all walks of life” in the museum’s offerings.  “Our mission is to preserve the past and teach the future,” said Chris. Continuing to grow the programs for students is something he plans to expand upon as Executive Director. Chris originally came to the History Center in 2009 as a student at Carthage College for an internship. He contributed a great deal to the research that led to the creation of the Rambler Legacy Gallery’s Lost Industries exhibit. When he returned to the Kenosha History Center in 2014 after accepting a position as Marketing & Special Events Coordinator for the museum, he was able to see his work alive and in action. “I have a special connection to this exhibit,” he shared.

Those special connections are something he hopes to create for all guests at the museum. Making history fun for everybody is a goal he reaches for daily. Whether it be “On this Day in Kenosha History” posts on the museum’s social media accounts or one of the many mini exhibits hitting home to a special interest (past mini exhibits include Kenosha Baseball, Kenosha Police, Kenosha Area Tourism, and more), having people connect the past and present is key. Finding new ways to reach people, present historical artifacts, and tie the past to the present are essential to the continued growth of the center and its ever-growing collections. “I want people to feel like they can come to this museum more than once and always find something new,” Chris said.

Stop by and make history! You are sure to be impressed with all that’s inside the museum’s doors.

(262) 654-5770,

December 2016


Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

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