Our Mission

The mission of the Geneva History Museum is to preserve and share Geneva’s evolving story while inspiring and engaging the community.

We will accomplish this by…

Collecting: Acquiring material on Geneva’s history in all forms from past to present.

Preserving: Caring for the artifacts in our collection for present and future generations.

Researching: Sharing our unique resources with researchers across the world.

Educating: Inspiring and engaging visitors through programs and exhibitions.

Our Vision

Our vision is to be an accredited, sustainable Museum, connecting globally as the premier source of Geneva’s history.

Core Values

Stewardship – We are committed to providing the highest level of care for objects the Museum holds in perpetuity.

Authenticity – We provide links to history through well documented collections, accurate interpretation, and reliable scholarship.

Ingenuity – We apply limited resources in innovative ways to maximize the effectiveness of our programs and the efficiency of our operations.

Engagement – We invite community involvement in our exhibits, programs, and collection development, and build partnerships with organizations and individuals.

Our Story

In 1943, dedicated citizens formed the Geneva Historical Society to preserve local history and educate the community. Artifacts were cataloged and stored in private residences and exhibited in storefronts. A Museum Committee was formed in 1961 to raise funds for a building. After years of searching existing buildings, they made a deal with the park district and city to build the first Geneva History Museum in Wheeler Park. This building was expanded twice, in 1972 and in 1990.

As newcomers began to outnumber long-time residents, the Historical Society recognized the need for flexible space and a more central location. In 2004, the organization, renamed the Geneva History Center, conducted a successful capital campaign to purchase a two-story building in the heart of Geneva’s historic district. The building was renovated to create two exhibition galleries, storage areas for collections and archives, a research room, a meeting room and offices. The organization has always operated on voluntary donations and does not receive public funds.

In 2013, while participating in the Museum Assessment Program, it was rediscovered that the word Museum best represents the activities and services of the organization. In June 2014, the name became the Geneva History Museum, operated by the Geneva Historical Society.

The Museum celebrated 10 years in this building in August 2014 with a grand reopening of the redesigned Main Gallery, “Geneva’s Story,” our permanent exhibition. Group Programs and Geneva on Wheels tours by van, trolley and bicycle were also developed to bring the Museum out into the community.

In 2014 the Museum started the Standards of Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPs) offered by the American Association for State and Local History which provides benchmarks against nationally recognized standards.

With a goal of national accreditation, the Museum began reviewing and revising its core documents for the American Alliance of Museums in 2015 and continues to make improvements to meet Best Practices. In 2017, the Museum was awarded a Collections Assessment for Preservation grant from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation which provided a site visit by a conservationist and an architect who created a prioritized list of goals to improve the facility.

In 2017, the Museum was voted one of the “Best Museums in the Suburbs” by The Daily Herald and one of the “Best of the West” area Museums by West Suburban Living Magazine.

After completing all of the five StEPs, the American Association for State and Local History chose the Geneva History Museum as their national StEPs SpotLight in 2018 as an example of how StEPs is helping organizations take a leap forward by improving policies and practices, opening lines of communication and setting goals for a bright future.



Terry Emma

Executive Director


Since 2011, the Geneva History Museum has evolved under Terry’s leadership along with a professional and dedicated staff. She secured participation in the Museum Assessment Program which resulted in a total rebranding effort. She raised more than $100,000 in grants and donations as well as co-authored content to redesign the main gallery Geneva’s Story. These efforts and more have raised awareness and earned Congressman Randy Hultgren’s nomination for the 2015 National Medal of Museums and Libraries Award. Terry is the 2014 Geneva Masonic Lodge #139, “Citizen of the Year,” a member of the Geneva Lions Club, Women of the Moose #512 and longtime community volunteer. She is a graduate of Geneva High School, with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Education from Augustana College and a third-generation Geneva resident.

Vanessa Quillinan

Administrative Assistant


Vanessa has served the Museum since 2012 as the manager of finance, donors, membership, volunteers, room rentals and Gift Shop inventory. She has a diverse background in finance and purchasing, as a concierge, nuclear medicine technologist, volunteer for the Kane County Forest Preserve and a Certified Naturalist.

Jessica Strube

Curator of Exhibitions/Archivist


Jessica has developed award-winning exhibitions for the Geneva History Museum since 2009, taking bold steps to draw more visitors with a level of professionalism in design and quality. She designed and co-authored content for recreation of the main gallery Geneva’s Story while providing marketing materials to assist with fundraising. Several of her feature exhibitions have earned Illinois Association of Museum awards. Jessica also manages the Museum’s vast collection of thousands of artifacts, images, and documents. Her training, expertise, and knowledge provide amazing research services to the community. Jessica is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History, a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and a Certificate in Museum Studies.

Heidi Howlett

Museum Educator


A Geneva resident and former school teacher, Heidi coordinate educational programs for schools, scouts, summer camps and adult tour groups. Since 2013 she has created multi-faceted tours at the Museum and in the classroom with personal presentations and rentable traveling trunks. Heidi has a Bachelor of Arts from Iowa State University and was on staff at Samford University where her concentration focused on teaching methods for elementary education.

Gayle Meers

Museum Technician


With a Master’s of Library Information Science from Dominican University, Gayle assists with research services, collection management and grant writing, as a part-time Museum employee since 2013. She is a Geneva resident with a long history of community service.

Board of Directors

Mick Zollers

Historian Emeritus

Mick grew up in Geneva and is a 1956 graduate of Geneva High School. He has been a volunteer in the Museum’s archives for more than 17 years sharing his knowledge of reading abstracts and land records. With his assistance, the Museum has awarded more than 100 bronze plaques to historic buildings in Geneva.

Glorianne Campbell


Glorianne is a 1959 graduate of Geneva Community High School and has served on the Exhibition and Education Committee of the Geneva History Museum, Preseration Partners of the Fox Valley and Historic Homes Association. Glorianne previously served as Vice-President of the Riverhead Central School District Board of Education in New York and was the Executive Director of HUGS, Inc., a non-profit organization. She and her husband, Colin, live in a historic Geneva home built in 1866 which the family purchased in 1946.

Eleanor Hamilton

First Vice-President

Eleanor is “excited to be a part of the Geneva History Museum with it’s great initiatives and resources and to work with the great team already in place.”

Dan Maier

Second Vice-President

Dan brings a background in finance and accounting to the Board of Directors as well as a love of history. “I enjoy U.S. history of any kind and volunteering at the Museum where I grew up is a bonus.” Dan is a regular volunteer in the Museum’s archives assisting with cataloging the collection.

Pat Engel


Pat Engel and her family have resided in a “plaqued” home in Geneva for over 40 years. During that time she has been involved in a number of volunteer activities and served on the board of directors of a number of non-for profit organizations. In 2014, after 29 years, Pat decided to focus her energies on her other passions and sold the tax and accounting business she founded. She is excited about helping tell Geneva’s unique story through it’s history and letting the community know what a treasure the Geneva History Museum is.

Jane Foster

Board Member

Jane “loves Geneva and is impressed with the work being done by the Geneva History Museum. I feel my experience in working with children and families over 40 years will help further the Museum’s mission.”

JoAnn Cregier


JoAnn has lived in Geneva for 52 years and brings experience in fundraising, special events, history and policy development. She also volunteers for the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Lazarus House, and the Salvation Army. “I like the Geneva History Museum and what they have done in the community – innovative and efficient.”

Michael Hellman

Board Member

Michael has lived in Geneva since 2014 and resides in the Historic District. Michael and his wife Lisa have been lovingly restoring their historic home ever since. Michael had the Geneva History Museum research his home and realized what an incredible commodity the Museum is to the community. Michael has been an ardent Museum supporter ever since. He is the founding partner and president of the Law Offices of Michael P. Hellman, LLC, located on James Street in Geneva. Michael also supports Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley, Geneva Community Chest and Lazarus House.

Jane Martin

Board Member

Jane is a retired teacher who has been active in many community organizations including the Geneva Academic Foundation and the Geneva Garden Club. “I feel the History Museum is a vibrant organization.”

Gary Hedge

Board Member

Mary Pastorello

Board Member

Mary is a Senior Staffing Consultant with The Hartford Financial Services Company with a background in law and human resources. “So much of what makes Geneva special is its history, which rightly needs to be preserved and shared.

Due to travel, Mary is serving as an advisory member of the board during 2018 without the ability to vote.

Joyce Elliott

Board Member

Joyce’s pride on being a Genevan runs deep as a third generation family. “Preserving, sharing, and continuing to discover and develop Geneva’s history is a keen interest of mine.”

Tracy O’Connell

Board Member

Tracy is a lifelong resident of Geneva with 28 years experience on the Board of Directors for the Chester Gould Dick Tracy Museum. “I have watched the Geneva History Museum expand and wish to be a part of its future growth.”

Anne Cesarone

Board Member

Anne has over 25 years of experience in technology project management which will contribute to the success of the Museum including project implementation, collaboration, business development and training. “The Geneva History Museum has been an organization close to my heart for a long time.”

Kathleen Rentas

Board Member

Kathleen offers a background in fundraising and special events. She previously served on the Norris Cultural Arts Board in St. Charles, IL. Kathy is a retired teacher with a background in curriculum development and educational opportunities. “I think it is important to make history relevant, interesting and entertaining to people from a wide variety of backgrounds.”