Naper Settlement honors fire department’s 150 years in Naperville

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On May 7, 2024, Naper Settlement opened the doors to an exciting new exhibit spanning many museum rooms. Titled “A Strong Back and A Strong Mind” the newest curated collection includes artifacts, oral histories, and pictures honoring and highlighting the Naperville Fire Department, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. On Thursday, May 9, 2024, Naper Settlement held “Your Friendly Neighborhood Historian Speaks: A Strong Back and A Strong Mind” discussion. Chief Curator Christine McNulty and Curator of History Andrea Field engaged in an informative conversation about the brand-new space. 

A Strong Back and A Strong Mind

Objects, pictures, and oral histories collected for this space were carefully chosen to illustrate the “A Strong Back and A Strong Mind” theme, which McNulty stated came from a quote by Assistant Chief Mike Connors during the 125th-anniversary celebration.

“This is really an intellectual job. It is not just that physical grit and courage and physical strength, it really is a very skilled profession. And so I wanted to pay homage to that,” said McNulty.  

The exhibit shows old uniforms, letters written to the Fire Department over the years, journal entries from Naperville firemen and women, equipment like helmets and breathing apparatus, and many more items that tell the history of the Naperville Fire Department. 

Illustrating the comradery amongst Naperville’s firefighters

The entry room to the exhibit is a look into the daily workings of a fire station in Naperville. It includes pictures of firefighters doing everyday tasks like cooking, showcases their working clothes, and even contains a poker table collected by Naper Settlement’s curatorial team. 

“This is a great space to talk about the fact that, like, they’re sleeping at the firehouse, they’re eating at the firehouse, they have to have full lives and also be able at the drop of a hat to respond when people need them,” stated Field. 

The exhibit includes many more rooms and spaces within the Naper Settlement grounds which tell a detailed story about what it takes to be a Naperville Firefighter, and how the profession has changed over the years. 

Naper Settlement’s Fire Department exhibit will be open all of 2024

The exhibit will be showcased for the remainder of 2024, to honor this monumental year for the Naperville Fire Department. Visitors are encouraged to read about the history of firefighting, reflect on the sacrifices and risks taken by fire personnel, and even have the opportunity to write a note of gratitude for all that the Naperville Fire Department does to keep the community safe. 

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