July 15, 2024

Museum features wide variety of historical items

PENFIELD, Ill. — New items are added each year to the exhibits at the museum located in the former Penfield school on the showgrounds of the Historic Farm Days, set for July 11-14.

“This year we are going to have corn pottery,” said Betty Bensyl, who is cochairwoman of the museum with Jane Berbaum. “And we are featuring teacups and teapots.”

The household area includes a wooden tabletop model radio and a Singer sewing machine.

“There will also be a display of different maps,” Bensyl said. “And our pink stove seems to be popular.”

“Our household exhibit has an old-fashioned kitchen area with several washing machines,” Berbaum said.

In the hallway, visitors to the show can view a display of toy implements that Glenn Miller made during the war when people could not afford to purchase these items.

“Glenn’s granddaughter is coming to the show this year and she probably hasn’t seen these toys for years,” Bensyl said.

Blacksmith items are on display in the hallway, as well as some Penfield history.

“The Penfield grade school had band uniforms,” Bensyl said. “There is a tag inside of the uniform that says it was made in Illinois.”

Bensyl enjoys spending time in the museum each year at the show.

“Every time someone comes in, I learn so much from people who are talking to their grandkids or spouses,” she said.

A large variety of farm-related items, ranging from hand tools to implements, fill two floors of the building that once was a place for learning for students from the Penfield area.

Most of the items in the museum have been donated, and some are on loan from members of the I&I Antique Tractor and Gas Engine Club.

“Sometimes, items appear and I may not even know what they are or who donated it,” Berbaum said. “So, then I do a little Sherlock Holmes work.”

Occasionally, Berbaum will hold up an item at an I&I Club meeting to ask members if they can identify an item or how it was used.

“It is a never-ending process for our museum workers to catalog the items that come in to document who was the owner and a little information about the piece,” she said.

Visitors have the opportunity to see two very special items in the museum that are on loan from the Smithsonian Institution.

“The first one we got is the 1961 International Harvester HT-341 Turbine Tractor,” Berbaum said. “The next year, we got the 1903 Hart-Parr tractor.”

In addition to the two tractors, the former gym features a couple of additional tractors, as well as larger items such as a sheller, hay equipment and a couple of buggies.

“The stairway to the second floor goes to the small farming items,” Berbaum said. “We display tools that might have been used for farming from the 1920s to ‘50s.”

The four former classrooms on the main level of the school have been transformed into exhibit areas by the club members.

One room in the museum is a replica of an International Harvester store.

“It has shelving, and there are displays of all kinds of IH things,” Berbaum said. “I remember going with my dad to buy parts at a store like it.”

The members of the IH Collectors Club Illinois Chapter 10 staff this area of the museum during the show.

“The club members like to gather there because that room has a nice cool breeze,” Berbaum said.

In the corn room of the museum, visitors will see items like planters, seed corn sacks, signs and shellers.

The I&I club uses the former cafeteria in the school as its meeting room.

“On the walls of that room we have posters and memorabilia from the Historic Farm Days from the beginning and also the Half Century of Progress show since day one,” Berbaum said. “There is lots of stuff to look at in that room.”

Visitors to the show also have the opportunity to tour the former Penfield Methodist Church on the showgrounds.

“This year, we are planning to have family photos and wedding photos of our club members,” Bensyl said.

In the past, displays in the church have featured crosses, nativity sets, hymn books, bibles, baby pictures and Christmas ornaments.

“We always have some church plates on display,” Bensyl said.

Berbaum has been involved with the ladies auxiliary since it was started.

“My husband, Dave, and his brother joined the club in the early ‘90s, and the men kept talking about a ladies auxiliary,” she said.

“When Dave was president of the group, he asked if I would help start the ladies auxiliary, and I’ve been involved ever since we started in 1997.”

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor