Wilmette, Community

Annual event opens doors to Wilmette police and history

The festivities at the annual Wilmette Police and Historical Museum Open House on Sunday, May 5, entertained families, while allowing both organizations to educate the public on the many ways they serve the community. 

“The open house is a great opportunity for our department to interact with the public in a non-stressful time,” Police Chief Kyle Murphy said. “We want families to see that we are approachable and human and here to keep our community safe.”

On the grounds of the police department were the many different first responders. The Coast Guard, Wilmette Fire Department and local canine unit were all represented, giving folks a firsthand lesson on how each department protects the public. 

Evanston Police Officer Random Johnson with partner Aston at the open house

This year, the event also allowed Murphy and his team to share the department’s hope to revitalize the 50-plus-year-old police building.

“The nature of law enforcement has changed over all these years, resulting in our need for updated and adequate space,” Murphy said. 

Some areas of proposed improvement include additional privacy for residents reporting sensitive information, improved space for technological advances, upgraded facilities for female staff, and more communal space for groups such as local Scouts and others. 

Down the street at the historical museum, the mission was similar. 

“The annual open house is a tradition that helps us raise awareness about our offerings, upcoming events and exhibits,” said Sarah Hawkinson, the museum’s head of community engagement.

Outside on the front lawn, guests were entertained by the Wilmette Community Band. Guests learned about Wilmette’s unique pickle history from Board Member Lori Matten, even giving children the chance to plant their own cucumber seed.

Fellow Board member Harriet Lightman presented old-fashioned artifacts such as a butter churner, 1900s-era telephone and more, taking families on a journey back in time. 

(Left to right) Vivian, Willow, Meier and Talia Rogers take a break at the open house.

A scavenger hunt and historical bingo lead guests inside, where they previewed the upcoming exhibit, “RSVP: Clothes for the Hostess,” slated to open officially on May 19. 

Curator David Pratt displayed a mini exhibit honoring the 150th Anniversary of Benjamin Marshall. Guests also enjoyed raffles and treats while learning about this summer’s community scavenger hunt, set to run June 17-Aug. 11.

Pratt added, “There is no other day of the year for the entire community to come together at the museum for an event that appeals to all ages.” 

For Museum Director Rachel Ramirez the event is a wonderful way to remind all how history impacts the present. 

“It’s good to have a place where people can connect and reflect on the past,” she said. “The event unites longstanding residents with new families, while learning some fun facts that make Wilmette so interesting.” 

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Alexa Burnell

Alexa Burnell is a Wilmette resident who has been covering the North Shore for the past seven years, previously for The Wilmette Beacon and its sister newspapers.

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