The History of the Museum

The Champaign County History Museum is a 501(c)(3) organization and exists to “collect and preserve artifacts relating to the history of Champaign County, Illinois, and, by using those artifacts in formal and informal educational activities, to interpret that history to the public.”  The Museum was founded in 1972 and opened for exhibition in 1974.  The Museum’s original home was the Wilber Mansion located at 907 West University Avenue.  The Wilber Mansion was sold in 1997, with proceeds being used to acquire the Museum’s current home at 102 East University Avenue.  The current building, named the Cattle Bank, is Champaign County’s oldest documented commercial structure, having been constructed in 1857. 

Wilber Mansion

709 W. University Avenue

1972 - 1997

Cattle Bank and Oakly Building

102 E. University Avenue


2015 Revival

Over the past 10 years, the museum, like many others our size, has struggled handily to garner enough financial support to maintain operations.  The museum derives 100% of its annual income from memberships and special event income.  During this time the museum has simply been holding on in order to protect its prized Cattle Bank and the 20,000 objects entrusted to its care.  However, on September 2, 2015 a new Board of Trustees was elected at a special member meeting and since that time major changes have been implemented.  


A New Beginning

Following the September 2015 member meeting, the Board agreed to close the museum to put new processes into place, remove all former exhibits, overhaul each of the four first floor galleries, implement new educational opportunities and begin a major membership and fundraising drive.


After 18 months of renovation, the museum reopened its doors on April 29, 2017.  Visitors will now find a completely new museum experience.  Patrons now enter through the new lobby at the corner of First and University Avenue.  This lobby currently features our gift store, history on the Cattle Bank Building, and a wall called "Our Community Quilt".  This ever-changing wall features highlighted historical moments from Champaign County's history and is able to change to reflect recent events.  

The museum reopened with three new rotating exhibits: "When We Went To War, a chronological look at the home-front during World War II; "A Second Home - 150 Years of Student Living at the University of Illinois" that looks at the evolution of the University Student by recreating living quarters from 1867, 1917, 1967 and 2017; and "Champaign County History Uncrated" which focuses on our collection and tells the story of why we save objects.


Our upstairs has changed as well with the addition of a new Community Room.  This room is used for our monthly board meetings as well as speaker series, topical discussions, and community meetings.  We also have a small reference library as well as our Artifact Management Room.


Today, the museum working hard to bring the citizens of Champaign County a quality museum capable of educating and preserving our collective history for generations to come. We hope you will join us in this effort by becoming a member and supporting this mission.