The Grove Awarded $375,000 State Museum Grant for Phase 2 of Interpretive Center Exhibits

The Glenview Park District is pleased to announce that The Grove has been awarded a $375,000 Illinois Public Museum Capital grant to develop Phase 2 of the Interpretive Center exhibits. The new exhibits will be added to the Discovery Room, just east of the main exhibit hall, and will help The Grove continue to educate visitors about Illinois’ first naturalist, Robert Kennicott.

The Public Museum Capital grant program is administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and is designed to help public museums in Illinois expand and upgrade facilities and create new exhibitions. This highly-competitive grant will provide a total of $19.7 million to 36 museums across Illinois. The planning phase for The Grove’s Phase 2 Exhibits project will take place over the coming months with construction scheduled to begin in 2023.

The additional Interpretive displays will illustrate Robert’s journey back home to The Grove following his death in 1866, and the clues his bones left behind. Robert Kennicott’s skeleton is now housed at the Smithsonian Institution and is currently on display in their Objects of Wonder exhibit. Staff is making arrangements to create a replica of the bones that will be used to explain the science involved in forensic anthropology. To tie in the many live animal displays in the room, the exhibit space will incorporate the theme of “discovery,” where visitors can become forensic scientists and investigate bones, skulls, furs and The Grove’s large collection of live animals for information about their lives and habits. A discovery table will be featured in the center of the room with magnifiers and natural artifacts to examine.

“We are very excited to continue our amazing Interpretive Center exhibits into the Discovery Room to tell the rest of the fascinating Robert Kennicott story, “explained Grove Directory Lorin Ottlinger.” Our visitors will enjoy the tie-ins to many live animal displays and the new interactive activities we have planned for the space.”

The remarkable story of Robert Kennicott’s life and achievements is currently being told through the recently renovated Interpretive Center exhibits, part of a project completed in 2020 to make improvements to The Grove. Robert grew up at The Grove and went on to become a prolific explorer, Smithsonian Institution scientist and founder of two prestigious natural history museums. His collections and records in Russian America led the United States to purchase Alaska many years later. Tragically, Robert Kennicott died mysteriously at age 30 on the banks of the Yukon River during his second expedition to Russia. This is where Phase 2 of his fascinating story begins.

Robert’s body began a 261-day, 19,500-mile journey back to The Grove via sealskin boats, steamships, trains and wagons. He was laid to rest next to his father’s grave on January 28, 1867, but was later moved to a cemetery in nearby Arlington Heights. The mystery of Robert’s death persisted, and theories included murder, suicide and accidental poisoning. In 1999, Grove staff worked with Kennicott family descendants to exhume his remains, and top forensic scientists from Robert’s own Smithsonian Institution were brought in to conduct a forensic autopsy. The team, led by renowned anthropologist Dr. Doug Owsley, ultimately came to a conclusion about Robert Kennicott’s death, which will be revealed with the new exhibits.

–Many thanks to Grove Executive Director Lorin Ottlinger for providing information for this News Room article.