In the last month, the Museum has installed two new exhibitions: Hats Off: Stylish Selections from the Illinois Legacy Collection and Harvesting the River: Pearl Buttons.
Hat’s Off contains wide variety of women’s hats from the Museum’s collection. They include a winter bonnet, a mourning bonnet, and a hat made from an entire barn owl.*
Hat’s Off exhibit in the Illinois State Museum Lobby.
Left: Winter “pumpkin” bonnet, c. 1840-1850. Middle front: Cloche hat, c 1920s. Middle rear: Woman’s hat, c 1905-1910. Right: Wedding bonnet, c1890, worn by Mary Booth who married George Challacombe on December 17, 1890.
Woman’s hat made by Retta Nichols c. 1940. Owls were not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act until 1972.
Various hats from the Illinois Legacy Collection.
Woman’s hat, c 1905-1910
Woman’s hat, c 1955-1965
Mourning bonnet, c. 1855. Worn by Lydia Tussie Catherwood of Christian County after the death of her husband James in 1855.
Harvesting the River: Pearl Buttons tells the story of the mussel shell pearl button industry in Illinois. Mussels are important ecologically as they filter water in streams and lakes. Today they are one of the most endangered and threatened creatures in Illinois.
“Harvesting the River: Pearl Buttons” in the Hot Science exhibit at the Illinois State Museum
Cards of mussel shell pearl buttons
Mussel shell pearl buttons
Cylindrical hole-saw bit used to cut button blanks from shells.
History of the pearl button industry in Illinois
Blouse, c. 1910
Pincushion with pearl buttons.
Kid leather gloves, c. 1910.
Display of mussel shell species with blanks cut from them.
Harvesting the River: Pearl Buttons is located in the Hot Science Gallery of the Changes exhibition on the first floor. It will be on display through May of 2019.
* The owl hat was made by Retta Nichols whose son shot the owl in 1940 shortly before leaving home to serve in WWII. The millinery trade is often connected to the decline and extinction of numerous bird species in the 19th century. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed in 1918 in response to the efforts of conservationists who feared more species would be lost to the feather trade. Owls were not protected by the act until a 1972 amendment added 32 families of birds, including eagles, hawks, owls, and corvids (crows, jays, and magpies).
The website dedicated to the history of the Illinois State Museum is up and running. “The Story of Illinois” is a project of the Illinois State Museum Library, which secured a $12,500 Illinois History Digital Imaging grant from the Illinois State Library to begin to digitize the Museum’s archives relating to its history.
The site will continue to grow and add content over the multi-year project. The Museum will feature objects from the collection on its social media sites as well.
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.
“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.
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.
The 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.]
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 email@example.com or phone 217-782-5949.