Grant may lead to museum exhibit
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org September 24, 2012 6:44PM
ExxonMobil refinery manager Rick Szalach (right)
Updated: October 26, 2012 2:12PM
JOLIET — An ExxonMobil donation could someday lead to a new era of manufacturing exhibits at the Joliet Area Historical Museum.
The ExxonMobil Foundation recently donated $50,000 to the museum, money that will be used initially to archive materials from the company’s Joliet refinery.
But the money also is intended to start a long-range plan to create a permanent exhibit on energy manufacturers in the Joliet area.
Rick Szalach, refinery manager in Joliet for ExxonMobil, last week at a check presentation said that he hopes the money can be used to increase understanding of the importance of manufacturing in the local economy.
“Certainly, the economic drivers in our area are beginning to change,” Szalach said. But, he added, “There is a really strong manufacturing base in Will County and in Joliet in particular that is the backbone of our economy.”
ExxonMobil recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the refinery, which is located in Channahon Township just outside of Joliet.
The refinery is part of an era that could become an exhibit to demonstrate manufacturing development in the past 50 to 75 years, said museum Executive Director Tony Contos.
“Joliet really is a crossroads when it comes to fuel and energy,” he said.
The museum now has exhibits honoring the city’s canal, rail, steel and quarry industries that date back to the 19th Century. The exhibit envisioned with the ExxonMobil donation would tell a story of the development of petrochemical industries in the second half of the 20th Century.
Contos said there is no timetable for creating such an exhibit, which would require more funding. But the museum could begin developing a plan in 2013 if there is interest, he said.
In a written statement about the ExxonMobil donation, Dennis Cremin, a museum board member and chairman of museum exhibits, said, “Within the area we have petroleum refineries, nuclear power, hydroelectric, and even wind turbines. This is a local story that has the possibility of capturing imaginations and inspiring people.”
The oil refinery heritage of the area includes the Citgo refinery in Romeoville and the old Texaco refinery in Lockport, which is now gone. Exxon Nuclear has plants in Braidwood and Morris. Several chemical companies have plants in the same area as the ExxonMobil refinery.