Travel Through Time and Discover the History of Vacations at the Downers Grove Museum

Wed March 14, 2018

Travel Through Time and Discover the History of Vacations  at the Downers Grove Museum

Take a trip through the history of vacations, tourism and leisure with “Are We There Yet?: Travels To and From Downers Grove,” a new exhibit at the Downers Grove Museum. Explore how Downers Grove residents and visitors planned, enjoyed and remembered their travels from March 21 to August 11. An opening reception will be held from 6 to 7 pm on Wednesday, March 21. The exhibit is open free to the public from noon to 4 pm Monday through Friday and 10 am to 4 pm on Saturdays, the Downers Grove Museum is located at 831 Maple Avenue in Downers Grove.

This temporary exhibit takes an in-depth look at the history of vacations and tourism from the American Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century to the present day. After the arrival of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in 1864, Downers Grove became available for more people to visit than ever before. Local politicians and leaders made efforts to attract homeowners to make the Village a suburb, but a lot of strategies they used attracted tourists as well.

Each section of the exhibit focuses on a different step in the process of taking a vacation and how activities related to them changed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The “Planning” section discusses how tourists picked the places they visited and made arrangements for their trips. “Packing” explains what tourists brought with them and what luggage they used. “Traveling There” looks at how the methods of transportation tourists used drastically changed from railroads to cars to planes. “Being There” looks at different types of vacations that people took, including staying at resorts, camping, visiting cities, sightseeing, going on self-improvement vacations and traveling abroad. This section also looks at the popular vacation activities of swimming, fishing and hunting. The last section, “Remembering,” looks at how tourists bought souvenirs, wrote postcards and took pictures as mementos of their travels.

Zachary Bishop, Museum Curator at the Downers Grove Museum, worked extensively on the temporary exhibit. “‘Are We There Yet?’ really shows off the museum’s extensive photograph collection, displaying photographs of Downers Grove residents on vacation all over the United States. It also includes a lot of postcards as well as ephemera related to tourism, such as tickets, brochures, guidebooks and maps.”

In addition, several items from the museum’s three-dimensional collection will be on display, including two large Saratoga trunks from the late 19th century, cameras from every era of the twentieth century and various souvenirs from the 1890s to 1980s.

“This is the first exhibit in a while that we’ve borrowed artifacts for display,” said Zachary Bishop. “The DuPage County Historical Museum in Wheaton and two private donors lent us materials to use in the exhibition. We also included a few images from the Library of Congress’ public domain image collection.”

Educational programming for ages 18 and up will delve deeper into the topics explored by the exhibit. Each gallery talk includes a personal tour of the exhibit and a brief presentation on a broader topic related to the exhibit. Light refreshments will be served. Cost is $5 for residents and $8 for non-residents; pre-registration is required.

Gallery Talks Series

How the Car Changed Vacations: March 22 from 11 am to noon

Resorts, Hotels and Cottages: April 17 from 11 am to noon

Packing for Travel: May 19 from 1 to 2 pm

Race and Tourism: June 20 from 1 to 2 pm

Self-improvement Vacations: July 20 from 1 to 2 pm


To learn more about the Downers Grove Museum and to register for programs, visit