Tag Archives: McLean County Museum of History

Back to Bloomington, Illinois

As I noted in a much earlier post, the McLean County History Museum in Bloomington, IL, is where I started the serious research for my book. Happily, the folks at the museum were pleased with how the book turned out, and they invited me to come down and give the presentation I’d worked up to share with audiences just how amazing the story of corn is, its impact on history, and how many aspects of our lives it touches every day.

Among those reached by the museum’s promotional efforts were Herb and Pamala Eaton, owners of the Eaton Studio and Gallery in Bloomington. Herb and Pamala forwarded a note to me through the museum, inviting me to visit their gallery, to talk about corn. Herb is an artist and poet, and while his artwork covers a range of subjects, one of his favorite things to paint and sculpt is corn. So the Eatons figured we’d have a few things to talk about.

We enjoyed iced tea flavored with mint from their garden and sat amid art projects while talking about the golden grain—a customer who came in joining in the discussion. While Herb’s interest in corn is primarily visual—how it dances in the wind, the soft gold of the silks, the green of the fields—he was remarkably knowledgeable about corn’s impact in the Midwest, so we did have a lovely chat.

I must say that, while the photos included on the Eaton Studio and Gallery website give a good overview of Herb Eaton’s work, it doesn’t include my favorite pieces of corn art. So you may just have to visit Bloomington, if you want to see everything—and want to meet Herb and Pamala, which is definitely worthwhile.

Bloomington-EatonGallery-2-B

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Filed under Corn, Midwest, Midwest Maize, Thoughts, Travel, Uncategorized

Bloomington, Illinois

Downtown Bloomington

Downtown Bloomington

My research for Midwest Maize involved a lot of reading, but it also involved a lot of visiting places important to corn. My first “corn trip” started with a visit to Bloomington, Illinois. Iowa grows more corn than any other state, but McLean County, Illinois, grows more corn than any other single county in the United States, and Bloomington is the county seat for McLean.

Bloomington is old for the Midwest, with the first settlers arriving in the 1820s. It’s a lovely place to visit, and a good base of operations for exploring both agricultural libraries and sites significant to the history of corn. It is also the location of the McLean County Museum of History, which is housed in the old County Courthouse. The museum holds not only displays of the area’s past but is also home to splendid archives for anyone doing research on the early history of the Midwest. I spent several days immersed in the fascinating memorabilia and documents of an earlier age, from transcribed interviews to collections of letters. It was a splendid start to my research.

My first day in Bloomington, I discovered that the local farmers’ market is quite appropriately located in the streets and parkland that surround the museum—so I could pass through current farmers on my way to study their forebears. It pleased me greatly.

Farmers Market and History Museum

Farmers Market and History Museum

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Filed under Agriculture, Farming, History, Midwest, Travel