New curator plans to expand museum Internet exposure

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record
Shannon Boynton, new curator at Essley-Noble Museum, stands beneath the downtown Welcome to Aledo sign.

Cathy Decker/Correspondent

ALEDO -- Three days after interviewing for a job as museum curator at Aledo’s Essley-Noble Museum, Shannon Boynton received a call from the board of directors of the Mercer County Historical Society telling her she was chosen for the job. “I started on Aug. 27 this year,” said Boynton.

This is turning out to be a good fit for the community, as well as the museum. Boynton is no stranger to Aledo. She graduated from Aledo High School 2012 and has some ties to historical places like Roosevelt Military Academy. “My grandfather (Captain James Shaughnessy) taught there for 17 years,” she said. The RMA section at the museum is Boynton’s favorite area.

Boynton spent most of her childhood in Aledo, moving back with her mother in 1993 to help take care of her grandparents, Lorraine and Jim Shaughnessy.

Much of the memorabilia in the RMA section of the museum has been donated by former cadets of the military academy, which operated from 1931 - 1973.

One of Boynton’s future plans involves expanding the museum and historical society’s presence on social media, such as the museum’s Facebook page and its web site. The Facebook page is under the title: Essley-Noble Museum & Mercer County Historical Society; the museum web site is

“On Tuesdays I’ve been hosting artifacts of the week,” said Curator Boynton.

She hopes this brings excitement to the museum so more people will come in and see the numerous exhibits. The first “Artifacts of the Week” posting was a bit about E. L. Essley, who furnished the money to build the museum and brought in a good group of items -- photos, a 35 mm camera, a Maple clock and other historical items. Her second blog featured a 50-star American Flag donated by the Columbian Club.

The museum is located at 1406 South East 2nd Ave Aledo, IL 61231 Tel: 309-582-2280 E-Mail: Mailing address is PO Box 269, Aledo, IL 61231.

From April 1 - Oct. 31 the museum is open to the public on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 1 - 5 p.m.  In the winter the hours are Saturday only from noon to 4 p.m. (Nov. 1 - March 31). The museum can also be opened up with special arrangements.

On Saturdays the museum is hosted by a volunteer, Dennis Henderson, a longtime Mercer County resident and former junior high history and geography teacher at Westmer.

He calls himself a history enthusiast and has been a volunteer at Essley-Noble Museum since the 1990s.

Many people come to the museum to look up family history. “We get a lot of requests for genealogical information,” said Henderson.

The museum also provides history lessons for 5th grade students from the Mercer County and Sherrard school districts. “May is the typical time for the 5th grade tours,” said Henderson, although there was no 5th grade tour at the museum for the past two years due to COVID-19.

Boynton’s education includes an Associate’s degree from Black Hawk College, a 2017 BA degree from Concordia University at River Forest with a degree in Communications and minor in Women’s gender studies. On July 29, 2020 Boynton received a Master’s degree in Gerontology from Eastern Illinois University.

While in college she had a student job for two years working with development for the alumni foundation. After graduation she worked for Austin Chemical Co. out of Buffalo Grove in sourcing and procurement, contacting pharmacy and chemical companies about procuring ingredients to make pharmacological drugs. She also worked with their social media and marketing platforms. “I spent the last four years living in the Chicago suburbs,” she said.

The Mercer County Historical Society in Aledo manages the Essley-Noble Museum, which was opened to the public in 1959.

Dennis Henderson points out some RMA records found at the Essley-Noble Museum.