The Y has a long and proud history of serving the city of Joliet and the surrounding communities. This holiday season, area residents can explore that legacy by visiting the YMCA exhibit at the Joliet Area Historical Museum, located in downtown Joliet.
In preparing items to showcase, the Y rediscovered several pieces of memorabilia that connect to the earliest stages of its operations in Joliet, many of which are now on display. Highlights include a book containing the Joliet YMCA’s first charter as well as a light fixture from the original downtown location.
“We’re honored to have a bit of our history on display at the Joliet Area Historical Museum,” Greater Joliet Area YMCA Chief Operating Officer Katy Leclair said.
Heather Bigeck, Museum Curator of Collections, said the museum was happy to play a role in sharing the Y’s story as a part of its dedication to showcasing important community organizations.
“The museum thought of this concept to work with various community groups to do what we call a community case display about a year ago,” Bigeck said. “One of our board members, Nick Macris, happens to be a board member at the YMCA. A while back, he had asked if we had any material history on the Y. We had a couple early photos, but that was about it.”
Nick Macris, who serves on the Y’s Metropolitan Board of Directors, said the opportunity was a great way to demonstrate the YMCA’s lasting presence in the Joliet area.
“The YMCA has been a part of Joliet’s culture for over 90 years and provides valuable services to the Joliet community. We want to ensure that the community continues to be aware that we have been a contributor to the city’s growth and development,” he said.
“It’s really nice to be able to work with organizations who have maintained their physical artifacts and be able to put them on display,” Bigeck said. “Some of the members found these wonderful materials in their collections.”
Visitors can also learn about the Y’s evolution through the years.
“There is a framed collage that presents each of the expansions of the Y over time,” Bigeck said. “The Y is important because it is a community partner not only with other institutions but with community members themselves. It has always been an organization focused on bringing families together and giving kids something to do outside of the school system.”
And, as LeClair notes, the bonds the Y has built with the community aren’t limited to the confines of a display case.
“Artifacts can help us remember, but the relationships formed through Y service, programs and membership will also live on in memories for generations,” Leclair said.
The Y’s exhibit at the Joliet Area Historical Museum will be on display through the end of December. To learn more about the museum, click here.