Historical Museum donation
By Matt Helm
BELVIDERE ─ The Boone County Historical Museum received a donation from the family of Mildred and Melvin Banks of 37,500 photographic slides as well as $100,000 for renovations.
“Mildred and Melvin banks were prominent, well known, respected and influential members of the community,” Executive Director of the Boone County Historical Museum Anna Pivoras said. “Photography was Mildred’s greatest passion. The family decided to donate her collection of slides, which are really high quality, beautiful images.”
Mildred traveled the world taking photos and attending professional photography courses.
“She would see something on TV or in a magazine that she liked and she would actually go there,” Pivoras said. “She would take pictures of animals, landscapes and buildings. Her images were striking and were even prize winning at the Boone County Fair.”
The Banks family donated prints, cameras, tripods and other photographic equipment to the museum along with the slides.
“We hired two interns to organize the photos in archival quality storage materials in order to safely house them in perpetuity, so they will live on for a long time out of light and humidity,” Pivoras said.
The Boone County Historical Museum had the photos digitized by DPSDave Digital Photographic Service, known for processing the photos for “National Geographic.” Even the company commented on the exceptional quality of Banks’ photography.
Historical Museum donation 3“We will purchase an iPad Pro so that museum visitors can look through her photos digitally because there are so many of them,” Pivoras said.
In addition to Mildred’s photographs, the Banks family donated $100,000 to the museum. The money will be used to update the natural history room.
“We are redesigning the room to utilize the space better,” Pivoras said. “It’s time for an update. We are going to expand the room and equip it with new flooring, shelving and cabinets. We are going to use our current collection but update the room itself.”
The natural history room currently features the Grainger Newton collection of mounted animals and taxidermy from the 1860s, including a 150-year-old extinct passenger pigeon.
“We are going to turn the room into a natural history room focusing on geology and ecology,” Pivoras said. “We are creating a new diorama platform with a woodlands scene that will feature taxidermy animals indigenous to Boone County.”
Melvin Banks was instrumental in the formation of the Boone County Conservation District, the first conservation district in Illinois.
“It’s appropriate to refurbish the natural history area in honor of the Banks family because of their connection to naturalists in Boone County,” Pivoras said. “We are working with a museum professional for design and layout. We are going to hang up new signage with informative, really good educational messages.”
The Boone County Historical Museum routinely offers guided tours and scavenger hunts for school groups. They also offer a “teacher trunk” full of historical artifacts that they can loan out to classrooms.
Historical Museum Donation 2“It is important for us to preserve the history of Boone County, both the natural history and the cultural history,” Pivoras said. “The museum is a tool for learning about our heritage. The monetary donation from the Banks family is a huge deal for supporters of the museum.”

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