Bicentennial & Beyond! Opens with a Splash

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The Museum opened its Bicentennial & Beyond! The Illinois Legacy Collection exhibition on Friday, June 29 with a public celebration. Almost 400 people enjoyed music, food, drinks, and one of the largest exhibitions of rarely-seen objects from the Museum’s Illinois Legacy Collection of 13.5 million objects.

Bicentennial and Beyond! exhibits artifacts from a variety of disciplines, including art, anthropology, archeology, botany, decorative arts, geology, and zoology, chosen for the unique stories they tell about Illinois. Reflecting the fact that the complete story of Illinois goes well beyond the 200 years since statehood, artifacts range from 400-million-year-old fossils to contemporary art. The exhibition runs through February 3, 2019.

Photos by Chris Young and Megan Ruyle. To see a 360º photo of the exhibition gallery, click here.

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“Story of Illinois” Website Launch

In 2018, the State of Illinois is celebrating its 200th birthday. In recognition of the Bicentennial, Illinois museums are sharing the State’s rich history through the objects in their care with a new website entitled “The Story of Illinois: Celebrating the Illinois Bicentennial Through Museum Objects” (story.illinoisstatemuseum.org).

The website, built by the Illinois State Museum, will feature some of the 13.5 million objects in its collection which will be on display in a new exhibition entitled “Bicentennial and Beyond: The Illinois Legacy Collection” opening on June 30. Both the website and the exhibition recognize the fact that the record of the place that became Illinois goes back much further than 200 years—about 500 million years further. From the Tully Monster (the State Fossil), to prehistoric stone tools, to a wedding dress fashioned from a parachute, each object tells a unique part of Illinois’ story, regardless of its age.

The collections from museums in Illinois help tell the unique story of Illinois, from statehood 200 years ago and beyond. The new ‘Story of Illinois’ website will allow anyone, anywhere, anytime to go online and sample some of the best of Illinois history, art, culture, and science.”

– Robert Sill, ISM Interim Director

The website takes a State-wide focus through a partnership with the Illinois Association of Museums (IAM). The IAM has recruited museums from Chicago to Mount Vernon to share treasures from their vaults and galleries.

“You will find some rare, quirky, and beautiful objects on the website, such as the Lone Ranger’s saddle used by Brace Beemer from the Wabash County Museum, to a ceremonial war club used by the Potawatomi Indians from the Chicago History Museum, to a painting by Illinois native and American Impressionist Ivan Summers from the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, to a photoelectric relay used at the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition of 1933-34. Each item has its own story to tell.”

— Karen Everingham, Illinois Association of Museums President

New objects and partners will be added to the site throughout the Bicentennial year. Participating Museums to date include:

  • Adler Planetarium, Chicago
  • Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Mt. Vernon
  • Chicago Academy of Sciences – Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago
  • Chicago History Museum, Chicago
  • Elizabeth History Museum, Elizabeth
  • Illinois State Museum, Springfield
  • Illinois State Museum Dickson Mounds, Lewistown
  • John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago
  • Pullman State Historic Site, Chicago
  • The Chicago Great Western Depot Museum, Elizabeth
  • The Field Museum, Chicago
  • Wabash County Museum, Mt. Carmel
  • Western Illinois University, Macomb

The State Museum will be featuring objects and their stories through its Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds. Like or follow the Museum on these platforms to see new objects as they are added.

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New Exhibition Honors Heroes: Including Yours!

Unsung Heroes descriptionThe Museum would like to feature your Illinois “unsung hero” in a Facebook Gallery that will supplement a coming exhibition.

On March 3, the Museum will open a new exhibition, Unsung Heroes, featuring three little-known heroes from Illinois’ past. Anna Heistad was a nurse and settlement worker in early 19th century Chicago who rose before dawn during the Spanish flu pandemic to work with the ill.  Minnie Vautrin was a missionary worker in China who sheltered thousands of women and children during the Nanking Massacre of 1937-1938. Thomas Jones was a Navy medic who tended to his comrades’ wounds in the heat of battle and continued serving veterans after his return.  All three saved countless lives, and none of them did it for any kind of reward or glory.

The Unsung Heroes exhibition will document these fascinating stories of sacrifice and heroism through photographs and personal objects, many which have never been displayed publicly. The exhibition will be open through June 10.

The Museum is also seeking photo submissions of other Illinois “unsung heroes” who will be recognized in a Facebook gallery. Interested persons should submit their hero for recognition. The hero might be a serviceman or woman, first responder, community advocate, volunteer, or anyone else who deserves recognition for their service to others.

Submission requirements:

  • High-quality photo of an Illinois “unsung hero”
  • Hero’s name
  • Hero’s Illinois hometown
  • Submitter’s name
  • Hero’s story in a few paragraphs (what makes this person a hero?)

Send photos and information to erika.holst@illinois.gov by March 2, 2018 for consideration.

[Please do not send any original photos. WE CANNOT RETURN HARD COPIES SUBMITTED FOR THIS PROJECT. By submitting a photo, you are giving the Illinois State Museum permission to display and share your photo online and with the media.  If in doubt, please check with the “hero” you are submitting to make sure they will be comfortable with the recognition.]

Pinball and Imagist Exhibit to Open in May

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Courtesy Ethan D. Ecole

On May 20, the Illinois State Museum will proudy open Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago an interactive exhibition examining the intertwined history of two of Chicago’s greatest exports: pinball and imagist painting.

Most of the world’s finest pinball machines were made in Chicago’s North Side factories. As those machines reached the apex of pictorial and engineering ingenuity, the artists now known as the Imagists and the Hairy Who were finding their unique visual style with inspiration from many vernacular sources including the arcades and Riverview Park. Pinball provided inspiration with its high contrast coloration, absurd juxtapositions, and ultra-flat forms. Pinball was but one inspiration for these artists, along with the city’s many-colored storefronts, campy product ads, and hand-painted and neon commercial signs. The exhibition contains photographs of Chicago in those years, as recorded by some of these same artists.

Visitors to the exhibition are invited to play pinball on Chicago-built pinball machines alongside paintings, sculptures and prints inspired by them, including works by Roger Brown, Ed Flood, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Suellen Rocca, Barbara Rossi, Karl Wirsum and Ray Yoshida. The exhibition also features original works by Constantino Mitchell a long time pinball artist.

Kings and Queens is organized by the Elmhurst Art Museum Director Jenny Gibbs and curated by New York’s Dan Nadel. It will be on display at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield from May 20 – August 11, 2017.

Marshall Fields Holiday Exhibit

A nostalgic collection of Marshall Field’s Christmas decorations is on display in the State Museum lobby. It includes toys, ornaments, and postcards. The crown jewels of the collection are Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly. The characters were introduced in 1945 and were often seen at the top of the Christmas Tree in the Walnut Room as well as other locations in the store.

Do you remember Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly? What is your favorite Marshall Fields Christmas memory?