Special exhibit marks 65th year for Cantigny Museum

Visitors to “65 Years” will learn about the original museum, housed in the former horse stable that is now the Cantigny Visitors Center. (Photo courtesy of Cantigny Museum)

Visitors to the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton are about to get an eyeful in a special exhibit called “65 Years” boasting 465 artifacts arranged in surprising ways, creating a dynamic visual experience for all who step into the transformed lobby space.

The exhibit opens on May 27 and runs through Veterans Day.

For a sense of drama, the objects are presented in a countdown format starting at 65, a nod to Cantigny Park’s 65th anniversary year now in progress. Like the military museum itself, the blockbuster exhibit combines history, storytelling, and innovative curation to make an impression on guests.

The First Division Museum will host an official Exhibit Opening the evening of Thursday, June 1—a ticketed event open to the public with food, drinks, and live music. To learn more and purchase tickets visit Cantigny.org.

Visitors to “65 Years” will learn about the original museum, housed in the former horse stable that is now the Cantigny Visitors Center. When opened in 1960, two years after the park, it was called the Cantigny War Memorial Museum of the First Division. The present-day and much larger First Division Museum opened in 1992 and received a major renovation in 2017—the earliest fruit of Cantigny’s Project New Leaf.


“65 Years” also highlights the museum’s leadership and key changes through the years.


“The exhibit is meant to be nostalgic for all the families and guests who have come to the park for generations, as well as a chance to share our deep connection to the First Division and its members,” said Jessica Waszak, assistant curator.


That connection begins with Colonel Robert R. McCormick, Cantigny’s benefactor, who served in the First Division during World War I. The museum honors his legacy and the service and sacrifice of all military veterans, telling their stories and the story of America’s military experience through the lens of the 1st Infantry Division or “Big Red One.”

The items in “65 Years” represent the mundane and the momentous, from boots, helmets, and cigarette lighters to heroic patches, medals, and flags. They depict the everyday lives of soldiers while commemorating exceptional lives of service and sacrifice for our country.


Some of the nearly 500 artifacts will be on public display for the first time. The objects are organized into 17 categories, with emphasis on soldiers’ personal stories. Underlying the exhibit is the trust that artifact donors extend to the museum in its role of stewarding precious family memorabilia and narratives.


Admission to “65 Years” at the First Division Museum is included with paid admission to Cantigny Park. For more information, visit Cantigny.org.

Summer Concerts. The park is hosting 19 weekend and holiday concerts starting May 28, all listed on the Cantigny.org calendar. A limited number of Concert Season Passes are available at a discounted price. New this year, guests may purchase daily park admissions and special event tickets in advance.

“The online purchase option will save time at the front gate and guarantee a parking space on the summer’s busiest days,” said Matt LaFond, Cantigny Park executive director.

Summer Nights. Special programming every Thursday evening begins on June 8. Each week will have a focal event or theme, such as Bark in the Park, a Shakespeare play, and Music in the Gardens.

Moonlit Movies. Some things are more fun outside! Families know that Friday nights are movie time at Cantigny, and this summer the park debuts a 40-foot inflatable screen, pre-show live music, and expanded food and beverage concessions.

To plan a visit, view pricing, and purchase daily admission or special event tickets, go to Cantigny.org. The website also features a full schedule of upcoming events, plus details about the new signature events such as Jazz and Wine Fest.