Local history buff stays close – at Naper Settlement
April 30, 2011 3:36PM
Page from fabric diary kept by Naperville resident Hannah Ditzler Alspaugh (clothing scraps are from her own clothing as well as from friends and family, she started the diary in 1887 and finished it in 1903). | Submitted by Naper Settlement
Did you know?
The Naperville Heritage Society’s permanent collections include more than 40,000 two- and three-dimensional items. Sarah Buhlig couldn’t choose a favorite artifact, but instead listed three she is “especially fond of.”
Page from fabric diary kept by Naperville resident Hannah Ditzler Alspaugh. Clothing scraps are from her own clothing as well as from friends and family. She started the diary in 1887 and finished it in 1903.
Badge from the Naperville Hose Company, late 19th century.
Tea cup and saucer from a Cup of Cheer House Walk, held by the Naperville Garden Club, late 20th century.
Updated: September 28, 2011 12:15AM
When Sarah Buhlig graduated from Naperville Central High School in 1989, she didn’t go far. In fact, she spends her days next to it, on the campus of Naper Settlement.
“Sometimes it still strikes me funny to work right next door to where I went to high school,” said Buhlig, 39. “It has been interesting to see the changes to it over the years.”
Buhlig has worked at Naper Settlement since 1997. Her mission as registrar is to preserve the city’s rich history, which is the most rewarding aspect of her job.
“As registrar, I work with donors when items are offered to the museum,” Buhlig said. “I love getting to hear their stories and connections to Naperville, and of course, getting to work hands-on with the artifacts. You never know what is going to come in day to day.”
Buhlig said her fascination with museums was sparked by her mother’s volunteerism, and it never waned.
“I actually started considering working at a museum probably by the time I was 10,” Buhlig said. “My mom volunteered at a museum, and I used to go with her when she had meetings. I would wander around all the exhibits and explore all the behind-the-scenes areas.
“Once or twice in high school, I considered other careers, but by the time I started college, I was sure this is what I wanted to do.”
And she recalls being a frequent visitor to Naper Settlement while growing up in Naperville.
“I remember coming to Naper Settlement during field trips and remember coming to a number of the special events with my family,” she said. “For years I had a piece of rope and candles I’d made at the museum during one of the events.”
After high school, Buhlig graduated from North Central College with a bachelor’s degree in history. She said she loved her history classes there and was inspired by professor Ann Keating, her teacher and adviser.
Keating remembers Buhlig as a student who was interested in history, especially local history, from the moment they met. And even early on, Buhlig understood how “the past can be explored not just with written texts but also with material culture.”
“Sarah brought her enthusiasm to classes, sharing it with other students,” Keating said. “I was not at all surprised when she began working at Naper Settlement, where her work is really all about preserving artifacts, so that we can better understand our history.”
Buhlig, who now lives in Oswego with her husband and son, said Naperville was an ideal place to grow up.
“There was pretty much always something to do, from shopping and restaurants to movies,” Buhlig said. “I also loved being so close to Chicago — we were always taking the train downtown to go shopping, to restaurants and of course to the museums.”
Columnist Jane Donahue is looking for graduates of Naperville schools who have made Naperville proud. To offer candidates, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.