Recreation of John Deere's blacksmith shop

Some of my favorite museums are the small local ones scattered on the map. For instance:

  • That historic house a founding family occupied.
  • Or the home of the person who gave the town its fifteen minutes of fame.
  • The isolated ranch house of a pioneer.

A few years ago, I saw where John Deere lived on the Rock River when he first transplanted his family from Vermont to Illinois. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write a book set in Grand Detour, Illinois ever since. Later Deere made a strategic move to be on the Mississippi, where shipping channels would let him meet growing demand for his innovative steel plow more easily.

I also loved being in the Glessner House on Prairie Avenue, the inspiration behind The Pursuit of Lucy Banning. The spacious rooms and staircases. The fine pieces of art and craftsmanship. The commissioned one-of-a-kind carpets. And among all this, casual reminders that a family had lived in this house, with dishes and closets and beds and sinks like the rest of us.

These places captivate and transport me. I can be standing in the middle of a restored parlor and characters and stories spring up from the furniture. Of course I wonder what it would be like to live there, and in the time each museum commemorates.

I suspect time travel would have to wipe out my memory of modern conveniences or I would soon be longing for my own time. But I relish that sense of standing in a place where stories and dialogue and decisions I will never know happened to people I will never meet. It spurs imagination.

  • What about you? What would be the best thing about traveling back in time?