This past Sunday we had the opportunity to spend a few hours at the Russell Military Museum. This privately owned museum sits just south of the border between Illinois and Wisconsin about an hours drive north from Chicago. The museum is situated right off the highway and is easy to get to. A somewhat battered looking M3 Stuart light tank marks the entrance to the museum parking lot, a former car dealership lot converted into a museum in 2007.
If not for the light tank sitting out front and the sign on the building, a passer-by might be forgiven for mistaking the museum for a salvage yard. Those expecting a highly polished, big budget affair such as the (relatively) nearby First Division Museum at Cantigny Park will be disappointed. The Russell Museum is a “mom and pop” style museum, a labor of love by owner Mark Sonday and his family, who double as the museum staff. While the museum may lack a certain amount of polish, it more than makes up for it in the amazing array of military hardware present in the collection.
Museum owner Mark Sonday has been building his collection over several decades, originally showcasing them at a previous location in Pleasant Prairie Wisconsin (which wife Joyce Sonday now refers to as “Unpleasant Prairie”.) Forced to move due to Pleasant Prairie using eminent domain to clear land for a retail development, the Sonday family became embroiled in a long legal fight to gain fair compensation for the theft of their land [Read more…]