Illinois State Museum History Site Live

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.

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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.

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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.

ISM_IAM_Bicentennial Seal

Learning with Objects

Providing programs that complement and enhance classroom learning is one of the many important roles of the Museum. Last month, Dr. Michael Wiant presented a program on Native American life to more than 100 second-grade students in Chatham. The students had been studying how Native Americans survived in their environment. Dr. Wiant illustrated his presentation with animal skins, casts of tracks, artifacts, and a mastodon molar. The students sent Dr. Wiant thank you notes, which showed that in addition to enjoying the program, they were also paying close attention. We couldn’t resist sharing a few here.

Over 300 Go Behind-the-Scenes

Visitors from across central Illinois traveled to the Illinois State Museum’s Research and Collections Center (RCC) on East Ash Street for a rare experience. The Museum provided hour-long, behind-the-scenes tours of its second Springfield facility where the bulk of its 14-million object collection is stored. Curators provided insights into the breadth of the collection, how it is used for research and exhibition, and what it takes to care for these precious objects.

Volunteers from Springfield MakerSpace provided demonstrations of 3D scanning and printing, a technology that the Museum uses to document and share some of its collections. They also had hands-on activities for young visitors.

While the RCC is rarely open to the public, Illinois State Museum Society Members are treated to an annual open house at the facility as one of the benefits of membership.