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 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?