PEORIA — The Peoria Riverfront Museum with the Caterpillar Visitors Center provide seven acres of information, entertainment, the arts and recreation for people of all ages.
Exhibitions include the Illinois River Encounter. As visitors enter the gallery, they will see a 400-gallon aquarium containing native fish species from the Illinois River. One side of the gallery focuses on the natural history of the river from the time of the Kankakee Torrent more than 14,000 years ago until the present, and the opposite side tells the story of how humans have changed the river for their own uses. Topics and interactives include:
• Origins of the River: information about the Kankakee Torrent and the native peoples who lived along the Illinois River.
• River Ecosystems: three dioramas show native plants and animals.
• Fishing: learn about native and invasive species, the shell-button industry, and commercial fishing.
• Hunting and Trapping: see a “River Rat” cabin, a duck blind, and learn the history of hunting along on the river.
• Tomorrow’s River: learn about groups working to improve the river environment, view a live feed to the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge..
The opposite side of the gallery focuses on the working river. Topics and interactives of this part of the Illinois River Encounter include:.
• The River as Highway: Columbia riverboat disaster, barge experience, pristine river model.
• Floods and Levees: model of flood levels in Peoria, flood oral histories.
• Canals and Locks: navigating the Illinois River canal, wicket dam interactive, lock interactive.
Another exhibition is The Street. The Street is a dramatic exhibit designed with a sense of grandeur, with a large media display to immerse visitors in more than 300 years of Peoria’s rich history. One side of the gallery features two timelines: one permanent timeline of Peoria’s general history, and one timeline that will change periodically. The timelines are divided into six sections: Native American, French Peoria, Early Peoria, Boom Years, Growth and Development, and Looking to the Future. The opening exhibit theme focuses on the history of innovation in this area. Interspersed within the timelines are objects from our collection and interactive stations. The opposite side of the gallery offers a more in-depth look at exciting Peoria stories. Because the opening exhibit focuses on innovation, the featured stories are transportation, manufacturing, research & development, and brewing & distilling.
This gallery also houses an Object Theater, which uses multimedia technology paired with objects to tell stories of innovation.
Next to the Object Theater is the Hands-On Area, which offers younger visitors (and young at heart visitors) a hands-on venue to explore innovations that helped to shape our world. Activities include a sand and truck play area, a gear manipulation wall, and a car design and test track.
Finally, the Street is also home to the Peoria History Center. This room includes the Wall of Fame, where photos and information on inductees to the African American Hall of Fame Museum are displayed. A Peoria Personalities searchable kiosk offers biographies and multimedia of important and interesting people from the area. Also in this room, the Oral History station lets visitors both record and listen to oral histories.
The permanent collections of Peoria Riverfront Museum include many works by nationally and internationally known artists and examples of the earth sciences. The first donations of archaeological and geological specimens were accepted in 1964 and the collections have continued to grow through donation, purchase and bequest, numbering over 16,000 works and items at this time.
The Museum collects objects and works of art that by themselves are of historic or contemporary significance or are by artists of historic or contemporary significance. The collection focuses on material made in the United States and Europe, with an emphasis on works from Illinois and the Midwest region. The collection represents the Museum’s legacy for the future; it forms the foundation for the Museum’s role in the community as a center for the study and appreciation of art and science.
The Peoria Riverfront Museum is a collaborative effort of eight organizations with nearly 500 years of combined experience educating, entertaining and supporting culture in the Peoria area.
For over 10 years, these entities worked tirelessly to bring to life a one-of-a-kind experience for the people of central Illinois and beyond. Their objectives were to provide interdisciplinary learning opportunities for people of all ages and, create a diverse, cultural campus in the heartland, and positively impact the region’s economy.
The museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays through Memorial Day.
Admission to the galleries and planetarium is $11 for adults, $10 for seniors 60 plus, and $9 for ages 3-17.