About the Collection

The artifacts in the object collection represent McLean County's ethnic and racial history, people's relationship to their physical environment, political and economic divisions, the history of institutions and organizations, civic culture, and iconography. These objects are the tools with which the Museum tells the stories of the people of McLean County.

The collection is comprised of objects owned, used, and made by residents of McLean County, including:

  • Household items, such as furnishings, tools, equipment, and appliances

  • Personal belongings, such as clothing, toiletries, adornment, and musical instruments

  • Archeological materials related to indigenous groups of what is today Central Illinois

  • Artworks that represent the local landscape and people that were made by McLean County artists

  • Military equipment, such as uniforms, weaponry, and other materials pertaining to military conflicts and the human experience of war

  • Business items, including artifacts manufactured in McLean County, tools and equipment used in the running of local businesses, and promotional pieces

  • Farming materials, such as tools and equipment used for growing corn and soybeans and for the management of livestock

The Museum’s print collection, containing books, diaries, manuscripts, periodicals, and more is managed by the Library and Archives.

Online Object Database

The Museum is excited to launch our online database, which allows viewers to browse through object records that had previously been for internal use only. The object records list information such as the object’s name, description, period of creation, associated people, images, and more.

As of November 2023, we have over 800 records available of our collection of more than 18,000 objects. We intend to upload about 1,000 records annually from our internal database.

As our database grows, we continue to refine the content presented and users’ ease of access. If you see any errors in the information we share, or have any technical issues while using it, please let us know!

Donate an Object

If you are interested in donating an object to our Museum, please complete our online form so that Collections staff can review the item for potential accession into our permanent collection.

If you are unable to submit the form electronically, you can request that a paper copy is mailed to you. Email our Collections staff or call the Museum at (309) 827-0428. Please include all photos and relevant information about the objects with the form. This allows staff to make an informed decision while reviewing the objects for accession into our permanent collection.

Please mail to:

Collections Department
McLean County Museum of History
200 North Main St
Bloomington, IL 61701

Frequently Asked Questions

The Museum collects a variety of materials that help recount the history of McLean County and the people who have lived here, which in turn reflects a national chronology.

These collected resources include over 2,000 square feet of archival material and over 15,000 books which are managed by the Library and Archives, and over 18,000 physical objects, which are managed by the Collections Department. You can contact the Library and Archives here.

Our object collection is made up of artifacts that were found, manufactured, or used in McLean County or by its residents. This includes textiles, home goods, musical instruments, personal items, farming equipment, and more. View some of our objects here.

Objects are kept onsite in storage spaces where temperature and humidity levels are monitored, and light exposure is limited. While different objects have varying housing needs depending on their size and condition, objects in each storage space are protected with archival materials.

It takes an estimated $200 to preserve each object in materials, staff time, and conservation costs. To support this process, please consider becoming a member.

Yes, we are happy to pull items for donors, interested visitors, or researchers. We just ask that you set up a viewing ahead of time and respect our object safety guidelines. Please contact Collections staff to ask about the object(s) you wish to see and schedule a time to visit.

Interested object donors should fill out our potential donation form, which can be accessed online or in physical form upon request. In this form, please include photos and all known information about the object. Once Collections staff receive this form, it will be reviewed by a small committee, and you will be contacted in 2-3 weeks with more information. If the item is accepted for accession, we will schedule an intake meeting to complete an oral history and physically accept the object. This process will include signing a Gift Agreement, which will give the Museum legal possession of the object.

A small department committee reviews each potential donation form and considers the following guiding questions:

  • What story does the object tell?

  • How does this support our mission?

  • Do we already have other items like this in the collection?

  • Do we have the appropriate storage space and resources to care for this object?

In accordance with NAGPRA and our own code of ethics, we do not accept items looted from war, other conflicts, from burial grounds, nor any human remains.

Unfortunately, we cannot accept donations this way. Please use the online object donation form, or request that a copy is mailed to you. This method is preferred because it allows interested donors to directly share information important for review with Collections staff. It also gives us adequate time to do any necessary object research and ensure that the item is not already in our collection.

Once an object has been donated to the Museum, the object becomes the legal property of the Museum, and it cannot be returned to the owner. However, you can always request to view an object in the collection. Contact staff to set up a viewing.

We are unable to appraise any items donated for tax deductions. Donors will need to acquire an appraisal from a certified appraiser independent of the Museum. To learn more about tax deductions for monetary donations, contact Director of Development, Norris Porter.

The donor is not notified, but objects shown in our permanent exhibits and temporary displays list their catalog number and the donor is credited by name. If you do not wish to be credited by name, donors can request to remain anonymous.

We are unable to offer any appraisal services as it would violate legal rules and our own ethical standards. Our mission for object collecting centers items’ abilities to convey historical information. We are guided by questions such as “What can this object’s use tell us about its time period, or the person(s) who used it?” To appraise items would consider other aspects of its value and would violate our code of ethics.