My Suburban Life

Technological Treasures exhibit in La Grange examines conveniences of the past

How does life prior to smartphones, laptops and other conveniences differ from the world in which we live now?

The La Grange Area Historical Society invites the community to explore just that through its summer exhibit “Technological Treasures That Changed Our Lives.”

Available to the public through Sept. 24, the display features artifacts donated to the museum over the years, including phones, cameras, TVs, typewriters, calculators, sewing machines and more, that show how technology has changed through the decades.

“And how that progress changes how we do day-to-day tasks, take care of ourselves and our families and entertain ourselves,” said Sarah Parkes, executive director of the La Grange Area Historical Society. “These are all household objects that everyone can relate to.”

Exhibit hours are 9:30 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the Vial House Museum, 444 S. La Grange Road, La Grange.

“The display is very family-friendly and children are really enjoying seeing the vintage objects that look very different than what they are used to and yet also have a familiarity to them,” Parkes said.

The exhibit includes a “discovery table” where people are encouraged to pick up and interact with some of the items and guess their purpose.

“That feature is really being enjoyed by all visitors,” Parkes said.

Exhibition concepts stem from a collaborative process between the historical society board and volunteers.

“We look at what we have displayed in recent years and assess what parts of our collection are due to be placed on exhibit,” Parkes said.

Exhibit Chairwoman Sara Carpenter credits Mark Truax, immediate past president of the La Grange Area Historical Society, for being the brainchild of this summer’s theme.

“It was his goal for several years to have this exhibit as he knew we had technical items of interest, many that had never been on display,” she said.

After helping stage the last several summer exhibits, she was excited to take on the challenge again this year. She worked with Truax on choosing the items for the display. Carpenter then designed and arranged the vignettes.

“I love that it has been well received and that so many visitors are enjoying and learning from it,” she said.

Parkes said exhibits change on an annual basis and several months are spent preparing for them.

“Each year, the new exhibit opens in April and remains available through the end of September,” Parkes said. “We are already beginning to consider ideas for the 2023 display. We will settle on a concept by the time the current exhibit comes down and then begin the preliminary research and preparation.”

From October through February, the exhibit space is used for events and seasonal displays.

“Actually executing the exhibit happens in March,” Parkes said. “So that’s a busy time for us getting ready to open the new exhibit in April.”

There is no cost for the “Technological Treasures That Changed Our Lives” exhibit, but donations to the La Grange Area Historical Society are appreciated. Private visits outside of exhibit hours can be arranged for individuals and small groups by visiting the LaGrange Area Historical Society’s website at lagrangehistory.org.