The Story of the Illinois State Museum

If you have ever wondered how the Illinois State Museum got its start or wished you could find an image of that classic exhibition from your childhood, there is a new resource in the works thanks to a recent grant from the Illinois State Library.

The Illinois State Museum Library recently secured a $12,500 Illinois History Digital Imaging grant from the Illinois State Library. This grant will fund a two-year project to digitize the Illinois State Museum’s vast archive of papers, photos, and other memorabilia related to its 141 year history. This project comes at a time when the Museum is beginning to plan for its sesquicentennial in 2027, but you won’t have to wait that long to access the information, which will be available through the Illinois Digital Archives database maintained by the State Library.

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“There’s a treasure trove of fascinating pictures and memorabilia documenting the institutional history of the Illinois State Museum.  I’m excited to have this chance to digitize it and make it available to the public, especially leading up to our 150th anniversary in a few years.  Many thanks to Secretary of State Jesse White and the Illinois State Library for making this project possible.” – Tracy Pierceall, ISM Librarian

Stay tuned to the State Museum’s social media pages for updates on this project as it progresses.

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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.

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.]

“Pembroke” Author to Speak

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On Wednesday, May 10, author Dave Baron will present stories from his book Pembroke: A Rural, Black Community on the Illinois Dunes, which chronicles the history of Pembroke Township, 65 miles south of Chicago.

Baron’s book profiles a number of the colorful, longtime residents of Pembroke and considers what has enabled Pembroke to survive despite a lack of economic opportunities. Baron’s Pembroke was recently honored by the Illinois State Historical Society and given their Award of Superior Achievement.

This free program takes place at 7:00 p.m. in the Illinois State Museum’s Thorne Deuel Auditorium as part of the Paul Mickey Science Series. Each month, the Mickey Science Series features a different speaker and topic. For additional information, email events@illinoisstatemuseum.org or phone 217-782-5949.