Information Highway, 1950s Style
are visiting the latest incarnation of the Illinois State Museum on
the information superhighway, but the ISM hit the road with an earlier
technology. The "Museumobile" traveled the highways of Illinois
for 22 years beginning in 1949.
1946, Dr. Thorne Deuel, then the director of the ISM, announced to the
Museum Board that the Museum had prepared a special traveling display
to be shown at 11 county fairs. He added that he hoped to expand the
concept into a regular traveling exhibit, a "mobile museum"
housed in a covered truck or bus to visit rural communities throughout
the year. In the fall of 1947 the General Body Company of Chicago was
contracted to construct a large, custom-designed van. The unit was delivered
to the Museum in September of 1948.
During just over two months, Museum staff installed 21 exhibits covering
a cross-section of topics shown in the Museum itself. The Museumobile
was dedicated in December of 1948. Frank G. Thompson, director of the
Department of Registration and Education, cut the ribbon as Dr. Thorne
Deuel and V.Y.Dallman, (acting Chairman of the Museum Board of Advisors)
The first fully self-contained traveling museum in the country became
a reality and the Museumobile began traveling the state in 1949. The
idea for this first display was to present a sampling from each department
of the Museum. These exhibits lined the two sides of the bus and were
viewed from a central aisle.
Museumobile was very successful. The exhibit was booked in rural schools
on weekdays and in nearby public areas on weekends and holidays. In
summer it visited state parks, festivals, and county fairs.
By the summer of 1950 the Museumobile has visited nearly every county
in Illinois and was returned to Springfield to receive 22 new exhibits.
Several more new exhibits were created during later years. With increased
demand for the service, the original van eventually wore out.
A new, larger Museumobile was put into service in 1966. Unlike the first
van, which depended on a 150-foot extension cord for electricity, the
new unit was equipped with a 110-volt generator and its own heating
and cooling system. Twenty-five new displays were constructed. They
illustrated how humans have used local resources throughout the past
and included this diorama of prehistoric farming in Illinois.
By the end of the 1960s it became clear that no less than three Museumobile
units would now be required to reach most of the elementary and secondary
school students once during their 12 years in school. Also, a new museum
building had been constructed, and this new facility was visited by
five times as many visitors as could be reached by Museumobile. So after
22 years, the Museumobile was retired from service on June 30, 1971.