Actually, the title to this post is a misnomer: there is one main branch of the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, but there are 4 other state museums in different locations that also fall under the “Illinois State Museum.”
And all five of them are under the threat of closure on July 1st.
On June 2nd, the office of Governor Bruce Rauner announced what programs he intended to cut in an attempt to save $400 million in the Illinois state budget.
As these museums fall under the responsibility of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Governor’s press release stated that the [IDNR] “will begin the process to suspend operations and close the five state museums to visitors. The state will continue to maintain and secure the museums to protect the artifacts and exhibits.”
Screenshot of the Governor’s press release, highlighting the museum closure.
You can read about the many other program cuts and their potential impact here in this article in the Chicago Tribune. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rauner-madigan-budget-cuts-met-0603-20150602-story.html)
The idea of shutting down one museum—let alone five—seems incomprehensible. These museums collectively contain millions of artifacts.
Chris Young, a spokesperson for the IDNR, wrote in an email that the number of visitors to all museums last year was 386,750 people. The specific number of people for each museum in 2014 is as follows:
- Illinois State Museum main facility in Springfield plus Research and Collections Center: 199,304
- Dickson Mounds: 50,297
- Chicago Gallery: 64,300
- Illinois Artisans Shop Chicago: 39,896
- Lockport Gallery: 14,253
- Southern Illinois Art Gallery: 18,700
These numbers do not take into account the online resources provided by the museums nor the collaboration between researchers in other states or countries.
Illinois State Museum website: http://www.museum.state.il.us/ismsites/main/
Illinois State Museum’s Ice Age website: http://iceage.museum.state.il.us/
Screenshot of the Ice Age website released this year by the IL State Museum.
Enter Samantha Reif. According to an article on NPR Illinois, she is both a museum volunteer and a geology teacher, and she created the MoveOn.org petition asking Gov. Rauner not to shut down the museums. At the time of this post, there are 4,514 signatures.
But if the threat of shuttering them becomes real, how does one actually go about closing museums?
“The museum will return art objects owned by other entities that are currently on display,” Chris Young of the IDNR responded. “Consigned Illinois Artisan works also will be returned, as well as scientific collections from other museums and universities that have been borrowed for research purposes.”
“The museum’s staff will also be calling back artifacts and specimens that are on loan to other entities for research and exhibition,” he continued. “At this time, there is no definitive list of objects or collections to be returned.”
In addition, he wrote that the “museum currently has three active research grants from the National Science Foundation, and is a partner on a NSF education grant. [The] museum administration is working on a strategy for completion of the current grants.”
He noted that there are 68 people employed throughout these museums, but that lay-off notices have not yet been sent.
“Closure will come after the museum’s professional staff has adequate time to ensure that collections are properly accounted for and stored. No specific date has been set for closure as details are still being worked out.”
If you are Facebook, you can stay informed here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-the-Illinois-State-Museum/917517601639564
You can sign this petition as well: Governor Rauner: Don’t Close the Illinois State Museum – MoveOn.org
ISM Hot Science: The Importance of Museum Collections, Dr. Chris Widga at the IL State Museum on YouTube
Thank you to Chris Young at the IL Department of Natural Resources for his help and quick responses to my questions!
An enormous THANK YOU to Samantha Reif for creating the MoveOn.org petition!!
Thank you to the American Alliance of Museums, from whom I initially heard about this through their tweet (https://twitter.com/AAMers/status/608034565085642752)!
This particular writer has gained invaluable information and help in the past from one of the museum’s paleontologists, Dr. Chris Widga, and from the informative website recently released about the Ice Age (http://iceage.museum.state.il.us/).
(#ILoveMuseums originates from http://ilovemuseums.com, a campaign in the UK by the National Museum Directors’ Council.)
- Rauner starts budget cuts to force Dems to negotiate on his agenda, by Rick Pearson, Monique Garcia and Alejandra Cancino http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rauner-madigan-budget-cuts-met-0603-20150602-story.html
- Rauner prepares to close state museums, shutter some prisons to balance ‘phony’ Democratic budget, by Becky Schlikerman: http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/656741/rauner-orders-cuts
- Administration Initiates Management Steps to Prepare for Madigan-Cullerton Budget, Governor Rauner’s Office Press Release: http://www3.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=3&RecNum=13115
- Who won’t get paid if the Illinois budget stalemate drags on, by Thomas A. Corfman: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20150610/NEWS02/150619982/who-wont-get-paid-if-the-illinois-budget-stalemate-drags-on
- Illinois State Museum closing would be devastating, advocate says, by Bernard Schoenburg: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20150610/NEWS/150619927
- Will The Illinois State Museum Go The Way Of The Mastodon? by Amanda Vinicky, NPR Illinois: http://wuis.org/post/will-illinois-state-museum-go-way-mastodon