Ethnic Heritage Museum kicks off summer events

Museum’s African-American Gallery pays tribute to ‘Black Music’; Irish Gallery honors Father James Murphy

Rockford’s Ethnic Heritage Museum, 1129 S. Main St., has plenty of events planned for this summer.

The museum’s newest exhibit, “Black Music,” running through the end of July, will spotlight some of the musicians who have put Rockford on the “musical” map.

Almost everyone in the Rockford region has heard of Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child or Paris Bennett from American Idol. But there are a number of talented African-American musicians from Rockford.

Along with Williams and Bennett, this display will showcase the talents of James “Big Jim” Wright, Lester Young, Julian Swain, E. Faye Butler, Ann Nesby, Dorothy Paige-Turner, Harlan Jefferson, Pistol Pete, Freestyle and Carl Cole.

In addition to showcasing musicians, this exhibit will display various unique instruments. Zoe Norwood, librarian at the Rockford Public Library, has loaned the African-American gallery two Ethiopian musical instruments: a washint, a wooden flute-like instrument played by shepherds; and a begenna, the traditional musical instrument of nobles and upper class. The begenna, an instrument that is seldom played for an audience, was handmade by Norwood.

This display will also include a collection of African instruments on loan to the gallery from Jacci Mannery.

The Irish Gallery of the Museum will have a memorial display honoring Father James Murphy of Saint Edward’s Church, Margaret Kennedy and Isabel Culhane. This display will remain through May.

The exhibits during the month of May also include a display of Folk Arts in the Polish, Lithuanian and Hispanic galleries.

May 20, the Italian Gallery will have a display of artifacts from the Capitol Theatre, also in the 1100 block of South Main Street. Tours of the theater will be offered. A display of antique cars will be shown and described by their owners, dressed in vintage attire. Entrance fee for this exhibit is $5.

Sunday, June 10, the 16th Annual International Ethnic Music Festival and Father of the Year presentations will be held at the Lithuanian Club, 716 Indiana Ave., from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. A pork chop luncheon will be a served for $8 from noon to 3 p.m. A hot dog meal for $5 will be available for children. Ethnic singing and dancing and the Father of the Year presentations will begin at 12:30 p.m.

A raffle is being conducted with the main prize being two round-trip tickets to St. Petersburg, Fla., from Allegiant Air. Tickets are $5 each, or three for $10, and are available from any museum board member or by calling (815) 877-2888.

The Ethnic Heritage Museum is a six-room house built in the 1850s. A distinct ethnic group sponsors each room in the house: African-American, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish and Hispanic. A visit to each room gives insight into the values, culture and traditions of each of these groups, and an appreciation of the contributions these groups made to life in Rockford.

The museum is open every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. Visiting the museum is free to all members. For non-members to visit this unique exhibit, the cost is $3, and $1 for children younger than 12.

Tours can be arranged by contacting the Ethnic Heritage Museum at (815) 962-7402. The museum is handicap accessible.

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

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