Are you aware that dinosaurs roamed Lake County? There’s a new dinosaur in town, and it’s at the new Bess Bower Dunn Museum in Libertyville. The museum, operated by the Lake County Forest Preserves, is your go-to place for all things Lake County history. And you don’t even need to be a Lake County resident to appreciate the museum.
Who is Bess Bower Dunn?
Dunn was Lake County’s first official historian who traveled throughout Lake County photographing historic sites and even meeting with many of its residents to record their stories. Many of the artifacts and documents presented at the new museum were personally acquired by Bess.
- Dinosaurs! You all know I have a couple dinosaur fans and were they excited to see this huge Dryptosaurus as they walked in. The scientifically accurate replica of a Dryptosaurus is over 20 feet long and is the very first thing you see as you start to walk through the museum. Just prepare for a little bit of a bottleneck. Heck, everyone wants to take a picture with him!
At the grand opening, we were able to watch a presentation by Tyler Keilor, the paleoartist, that created the dinosaur for the museum. So interesting!
They highlight a few more dinosaurs in Prehistoric Lake County, but kids will no doubt flock to the dino dig.
- Peep this giant fossil-covered rock. This bad boy is 420 million years old and weighs 1,700 pounds! Whoa!
- Full-scale wigwam. The wigwam was created with the guidance of Native Americans. It’s a really neat space with Native American replicas that kids are able to touch. I didn’t get a chance to pop in because there was a presentation going on at the time. In fact, they plan to use this as a teaching space for programs. How cool, right?
- Reproduction of a one-room schoolhouse used by early settlers. See what games kids used to play back then.
- Trains. Innovations and Preservations shares post-Civil War expansion of railroads and highways. Kids will no doubt flock to the train table in the room.
- Civil War artifacts. Did you know that nearly 2000 men from Lake County fought in the Civl War? Check out the authentic Gatling gun and other artifacts from the Civil War era.
- Ride the boat. Kids can pretend to ride a boat used to take sightseers on tours of lotus beds. They even had play food, which was a big hit with the kids! My daughter
- Continue learning. Staff educators have developed programs for field trips and families to enhance your experience at the museum. Sounds like fun!
- Special temporary exhibit celebrating Illinois’ Bicentennial. Artifacts from the 2018 book “200 Objects that Made Lake County History” are showcased.
- Nationally accredited. The museum is among only five percent of museums nationally to have earned accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, an industry mark of distinction.
- Save money and go on a discounted day like Tuesdays where admission is half off. For free admission visit on the first and third Thursday of every month after 5 p.m.
Lake County is fortunate to have the Bess Bower Dunn Museum. What a great way to showcase Lake County’s history!
Did You Know?
- It took over a year to relocate from their old location to new. The process of packing and moving the vast historic collections, which comprise nearly 20,000 artifacts and 1,000 linear feet of archival materials, took over a year to complete.
Location: 1899 West Winchester Road, Libertyville
Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday; 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays.
Cost: $6 adults; $3 seniors (free throughout October); $3 kids ages 4-17 and students 18-25; Kids under 3 free. Tuesdays are discount days. Open after hours the first and third Thursdays of every month with free admission after 5pm.
Parking: Plenty of parking at the lot.
Stroller-friendly? Yes, but may get a little tough to navigate if it’s busy.
Crowded: We visited on a Saturday for their Grand Opening, so it was really busy.
What to expect: A one-level small museum highlighting Lake County’s history with dinosaurs, a dino dig, wigwam, train table, a boat, and other interactive features.