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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“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.

Advertisements

“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

Winter Day Trip to Field Museum Announced

China's First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors

Image courtesy The Field Museum

Springfield—On December 2, the Illinois State Museum is providing an opportunity to see the Field Museum’s exhibition China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors first hand on a day trip to Chicago. During the ride to the Field Museum, Dr. Michael Wiant, ISM Interim Director, will provide commentary on the Terracotta Warriors, as well as the culture of Illinois’ native peoples during the same time period. In addition to seeing the Warriors exhibit, participants will have full access to all of the Field’s exhibits, including the new Cyrus Tang Hall of China.

Participants will depart the ISM Research & Collections Center in Springfield at 7:00 a.m. on December 2, and return to the RCC around 10:30 p.m. The trip costs $130 for Illinois State Museum Society members and $150 for non-members. The fee includes transportation via chartered motor coach, access to all Field Museum exhibitions, exclusive educational content, a boxed lunch, and dinner in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood.

Those interested in attending can find additional details and registration information at bit.ly/ismtrip2016. Registration and payment are due by Tuesday, November 15. Space is limited, so registering as soon as possible is recommended. For questions, contact Elizabeth Bazan at events@illinoisstatemuseum.org or (217) 782-5993.

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.