Illinois State Museum History
Beginning with a relatively small but creditable "cabinet" of
geological specimens in 1877, the Illinois State Museum has grown
to be one of the major state museums in the country, with extensive
collections in the natural sciences, anthropology, and art. The
history of that notable geological collection which became the
nucleus of the ISM dates back to 1851 with the formation of the
State Geological Survey.
By the 1890s, the natural history and anthropological collections
had grown significantly as the result of numerous donations of
private collections. Exhibits, for the first time, began to be
developed as a discrete program. In 1903 the collection was moved
from the State Capitol to the new State Arsenal where the exhibits
were more accessible to the public. Over the next ten years, efforts
were made to properly house the collections which had doubled in
size during this decade.
Dr. Alja R. Crook was hired as director in 1906 and over the next
two decades was a major force in the professional development of
the Illinois State Museum. Through his efforts the Illinois State
Academy of Science was founded in 1917. This organization has a
close association with the ISM to this day. That same year, state
government was reorganized into code departments and the museum's
official name was changed to the Illinois State Museum; the new
statutes also provided for a Museum Board and set forth the purpose
of the museum - to collect items of natural history and to use these
for public education. Anthropology and art departments were added
in the 1920s.
In 1923 the ISM was moved to a newly completed building to
commemorate the state's centennial. Occupying twelve rooms of this
building, the museum was considered one of the best-housed in the
country. The first generation of large habitat groups was
installed. During the war years planning began for a new museum
building that would have a major educational impact on Illinois.
This plan was finally achieved during the early 1960s when on
February 4, 1962, a new facility was opened. Two floors were
devoted to exhibits, the first floor to geology and natural history
and the second to anthropology and art.
In 1945 the state acquired the Dickson Mounds Site, a 162-acre
tract in Fulton County, one of the richest archaeological regions
in the country. The Dickson excavation, located on the property, had
attracted the attention of archaeologists from many universities.
University of Chicago archaeologists who excavated in Fulton County
in the 1930's established many of the methods and field techniques
there that are now used in modern archaeology.
Museum was opened in 1972 as the ISM's branch facility. Controversy
over the display of Native American remains resulted in closure of the
burial site in 1992. The State of Illinois agreed to invest in major
improvements and the museum was closed to the public in 1993 so
that the work could commence. After extensive renovations, the museum was
rededicated on September 14, 1994.
The Illinois State Museum was first accredited by the American
Association of Museums in 1972. Two years later the museum was
elected into membership by the Association of Systematics
Several branch facilities have been added in the last decade. In 1985
the Illinois Art
Gallery opened in Chicago. The Illinois
Artisans Program was also created in 1985. Together with the Museum
Society, the ISM began managing three artisans shops: the Illinois Artisans
Shop, Chicago, in 1986; the Southern
Illinois Arts and Crafts Marketplace,
Rend Lake, in 1991; and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site Artisans Shop,
Springfield, in 1991. The Lockport
Gallery, Lockport, opened in 1987.
The Southern Illinois Art Gallery opened in 1993 at SIACM, Rend Lake.
In 1988 the Illinois State Museum acquired a 97,000 square-foot facility to
renovate for use as a
Research and Collections Center. ISM began replacing
the mechanical systems, refurbishing rooms for offices and
laboratories, and bringing the building up to museum standards.
The new environmental control system closely monitors
and controls temperature and humidity levels. The State of
Illinois also committed funds for equipment to upgrade collections
cabinetry, data processing equipment, and research equipment. This
new center provides the underpinning for the main museum facility
which is now devoted to exhibition and educational programming.
The Research and Collections Center was officially dedicated
in 1994 and is gaining recognition as one of the top such
facilities in the world.