Lake County history museum renamed and reimagined

Did you know dinosaurs roamed Lake County? Or that the Potawatomi used to call the area home? Consider the new Bess Bower Dunn Museum in Libertyville 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. 

The former Lake County Discovery Museum, now named after Lake County’s first official historian Bess Bower Dunn, offers a chronological walk of Lake County’s history from prehistoric times to the present.  

Besides relocating to a more central location from Wauconda to Libertyville, the museum now offers more than twice the space for exhibits, a new public research center, plus dedicated teaching areas.

At first glance, you’d never imagine the former office space now houses a nationally accredited museum, a designation only 5 percent of museums get. The museum, operated by the Lake County Forest Preserves, is everything you would want in a museum—artifacts beautifully presented, interactive features for those curious hands, and of course, a dinosaur! It’s a great museum with plenty of learning experiences; a definite hidden gem Lake County should be proud of.

Don’t miss:

View the world’s only scientifically accurate replica of a Dryptosaurus. 

As you walk into the museum, dino lovers will roar in excitement once they see the fleshed out 20-foot dinosaur complete with protofeathers, razor-sharp teeth and large 8-inch-long eagle-clawed talons. Kids will love hunting for treasures in the dino dig.

Step inside a full-scale wigwam created with guidance from local Native American tribe members. 

Pop in the wigwam to find replicas of items the Potawatomi made and used in the late 1700s and early 1800s. And yes, these items are meant to be touched and handled, so go ahead and touch that fox quiver! The wigwam will serve as a teaching space so look out for programs.

Scope out the giant fossil-covered rock that is 420 million years old. 

Don’t even think about trying to lift it; it weighs 1,700 pounds!

Imagine learning in the one-room schoolhouse used by early settlers. 

Then do as the school kids did in the past and play one of the old-fashioned games.

Pretend you are having a picnic aboard a replica boat used to take sightseers on tours to see lotus beds. 

With the addition of the play food, the kids will never want to get off.


If you go:

Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County

1899 W. Winchester Road, Libertyville

Cost: $6 adults; $3 kids 4-17 and students 18-25; free kids under 3. Tuesdays are discount days.

Open after hours the first and third Thursdays of every month with free admission after 5 p.m.

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