Book Celebrates FPDCC Trailside Museum and Legend of Virginia Moe

Forest Preserve Cook County Trailside Museum Curator Virginia Moe


For the millions of Chicagoans who visited the Trailside Museum of Natural History in River Forest, Illinois over the last 80 years, one of the most enduring memories about the place may be of Virginia Moe who served as its curator for more than 50 years.


Known as “Miss Moe” to generations of school children, scout packs, nature lovers and local residents, Virginia Moe was employed by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC) since the 1940’s. Her legacy and the history of the nature museum are the subject of a new book by Chicago author and former “junior assistant” at Trailside, Jane Morocco. In the introduction, the author describes the indelible impression left by Miss Moe on her life and the lives of countless others; teaching them compassion for all living creatures and how to “make the world a safer and better place for both animals and humans to coexist.”


Entitled Trailside Museum, The Legend of Virginia Moe, the book begins with the establishment of the Forest Preserve District by popular vote of the citizens of Cook County during an election held on November 6, 1914.  Archival photos show the beauty of the Des Plaines River (just west of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood) which served as the focal point of the park and preserve system. Environmentalists Jens Jensen and Dwight Perkins envisioned a system of boulevards connecting open spaces with residential and commercial areas, as stated by the author.


The story is a journey through time from the beginnings of the Trailside Museum, Thatcher Woods and the area around the River Forest community as it was shaped by the work and inspiring perseverance of Virginia Moe. The book is a treasury of historic photos, personal journals, memoirs and oral histories.


Just recently, Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ featured an interview with the book’s author on its Morning Shift program. Follow this link to listen to the 10-minute segment on SoundCloud. To read a preview of the book or to purchase a copy on Amazon, go to:

To see more historic photos of the Forest Preserves visit the UIC Library:


Tags: Forest Preserve, Cook County, Trailside Museum, Des Plaines River

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