The Racine Heritage Museum is located at 701 S. Main St. in downtown.
BY KATIE MATTESON
Have you visited the Racine Heritage Museum lately? Did you know that this local gem cares for more than 200,000 objects and about 6,500 linear feet of documentary material – the record of Racine County’s unique history?
Because you can’t see the whole collection during a single visit, it’s definitely worthwhile to make regular trips to see your favorite core exhibits, as well as the temporary exhibits and educational events.
Helping to support museum operations are volunteers. Each year volunteers donate over 6,000 hours in areas ranging from research, to exhibit design, to event support. And all of this comes at no charge! Admission is free thanks to financial support from Racine County, area foundations, businesses and individual donors.
So, if you’re still not convinced you need to join the 30,000 annual visitors to the museum, here are five fabulous reasons to entice you:
Racine County Sports Hall of Fame
A new slate of exemplary athletes, coaches and sports teams will be inducted into the Racine County Sports Hall of Fame during the 8th Annual Induction Ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 25. This means that the museum exhibit will be expanded to honor this year’s inductees: John Clay, Camille Jackson, Harvey Riekoff, Jack Taschner and Jerry Woods. You can learn about the contributions these outstanding athletes made to the community and to their respective sports when the exhibit reopens on Oct. 26.
Also being honored at the ceremony will be Pete Henkes, recipient of the Deep Roots award, and the Washington Park 1967 and 1969 State Champion Wrestling Teams. The Racine Area Soccer Association and the Soccer Complex of Racine (SCORe) will be recognized for their 40th and 25th anniversaries respectively.
The ceremony will take place on Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Racine Civic Centre Festival Hall. The celebrations will begin at 5:45 p.m. with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the ceremony will follow. Tickets are $45 per person or $400 for a table of 10 and can be purchased at rcsportshall.org or by calling the museum at (262) 636-3926.
Racine County Roots of Freedom Underground Railroad Heritage Trail
A self-guided walking/driving tour of the Racine County Roots of Freedom Underground Railroad Heritage Trail is available at the museum.
As the Underground Railroad reached Southeastern Wisconsin in the 1840s and 1850s, the harbor became a departure point for escaping slaves who came north on their way to freedom in Canada.
Hundreds of runaways found allies in Racine County. Today, the county is recognized as an important segment of the Underground Railroad’s vital but overlooked “Western Front.”
The museum’s exhibits and information collections on the Underground Railroad have earned the museum designation as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom facility. In addition to the Underground Railroad exhibits, visitors will find exhibits relating to the Civil War and to African-Americans in Racine County in the 1800s.
Racine Heritage Museum Research Center
The museum’s Research Center provides the community with a wealth of information spanning from the 1830s to the present. Archives staff members are available during hours of operation to answer questions and help guide researchers. The center is open Tuesday from 1 – 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
What’s in the archives?
- Vertical Files, which consist of a multitude of different materials including newspaper clippings, photocopies of original artifacts, reports and more.
- Photographs, including individuals, parades, businesses, parks and more.
- Objects, ranging from brochures and pamphlets on multiple subjects to high school diplomas and certificates.
- Index Cards, which organize unique information including surname information, census indexes, mortality schedules, marriages,and naturalizations from a limited set of years.
- City Directories, a valuable resource for finding information on individuals, properties and businesses.
- Maps, including early maps of Racine city and county, as well as Wisconsin and Sandborn fire insurance maps.
- And other resources, including books, binders, original sketches and more.
The museum’s Adult Pro-grams use a multi-sensory, three-dimensional, hands-on approach to present a wide variety of fun, interesting and engaging topics. Programs are geared toward participants ages 18 and up, are generally around 30-45 minutes, and programs can be brought to you!
- Artifact Adventure
- Coming to America: Bohemians and Other Immigrants in Racine County
- Early Medicine in Racine
- Fascinating Figures: Notorious Racine Residents
- Racine Historic Calendars
- Schoolhouses of Racine
- The Belles of Baseball
- Underground Railroad
- Women of Racine
For Student Programs, advance reservations are required and will be taken on a first come, first served basis. An adult chaperone is required for every ten students (chaperones free). Building constraints limit maximum visitor numbers to 40 students.
Call (262) 636-3926 and ask for Kari or email Kari at firstname.lastname@example.org for details on museum programming. The museum is willing to help teachers with their curriculum needs, and adjust programs for every age. Program and travel fees apply.
Artifact Introduction Tour
- Underground Railroad
- Marvelous Mummies
- Pioneer Racine
- The Belles Of Baseball
- A Tale Of Two Doctors
1888 Bohemian Schoolhouse
The 1888 Bohemian Schoolhouse, located at the corner of Five Mile Road and Highway 38, was adopted by the Junior League of Racine in 1974 and “Racine County Heritage” became the restoration theme. Research through records at the museum, interviews with people who attended school in the county in the late 1800s and with school officials who had access to historical records in the district, culminated in the restoration plan for a typical 19th century Racine County schoolhouse.
Actual work on the structure began in fall 1974 and in spring 1975 the fence and outhouse were put up and the inside of the schoolhouse was finished. Landscaping was completed in the summer of 1975 and the schoolhouse opened its doors for living history programs in the fall of that year. In 1977 the League transferred the programs to the Racine Heritage Museum.
The two-hour living history program at the schoolhouse accommodates students in third grade and up. Reservations are required, but flexible times are offered. The schoolhouse is open to groups of 15 or more from April to mid-October.
Now are you excited to visit or revisit the museum?
The hours are: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday and noon – 4 p.m. Sunday.
The museum is self-guided and multiple scavenger hunts are available to help visitors explore.
For more information, call (262) 636-3926 or visit racineheritagemuseum.org or like facebook.com/RacineHeritageMuseum.
Editor’s Note: Information in this article came from Racine Heritage Museum brochures, from the museum’s website and from a conversation with the museum’s executive director, Christopher Paulson.