- Illinois State Museum - - Collections -


Raven-Effigy Platform Pipe

The Illinois State Museum maintains collections of art, history, anthropology, and natural history which are critical resources to its education, research, publication, and exhibition programs. The geographical focus is the Midwestern U.S. with an emphasis on Illinois. The significance of the biological and geologica l collections resulted in the election of the Museum to membership in the Association of Systematics Collections in the mid-l970s.

The collection of fine and decorative arts documents the progression and history of art in Illinois. It is the only such public collection in Illinois. Especially significant collections include: the 20th-century paintings (relating to Illinois); the Illinois WPA collection of paintings, prints, and sculpture; the 19th-century folk art collection, the historical and contemporary Illinois photograph collection, the flat textiles collection (which contains outstanding examples of Illinois quilts and cov erlets); the collection of Illinois ceramics (manufactured when Illinois was the second largest clay producing state); the collection of waterfowl decoys (which is one of the best, representing the work of carvers along the Mississippi Flyway).

The Museum's archaeological collections are among the most extensive in the U.S. They are derived primarily from the Midwest. Overall they contain over 7.5 million accessioned artifacts from over 2,000 archaeological sites, a number of which are listed o n the National Register of Historic Places. Included are the major collections from Cahokia Mounds, one of only two U.S. sites on the prestigious United Nation's World Heritage List. The ethnographic collection (over 3,000 catalogued objects) is principal ly American Indian with quality representations of late l9th- to 20th-century baskets, textiles, ceramics, and apparel from the American Southwest, Northwest Coast, and Great Plains. The Dickson Mounds collection is composed largely of prehistoric artifac ts from archaeological sites in an 11-county area of west-central Illinois. It includes outstanding examples of copper and shell ornaments, sculptured stone pipes, and decorated pottery vessels of the prehistoric Mississippian culture of 1,000 years ago.

More than 111,000 botanical specimens are housed in the herbarium. This is one of three primary collections of Illinois flora in the state. The internationally significant Cutler-Blake ethnobotanical collection preserves remains of prehistoric cultivated plants that represent much of the primary evidence for early American Indian plant domestication in North America.

Decorative Arts
The Museum's decorative arts collections contain over 14,000 aesthetic and historical objects that enhance our understanding of the quality of life in Illinois. In support of the Museum's mission, collecting focuses on objects of historical and cultural importance that were made in Illinois. These collections primarily document domestic life and include food service tools and equipment, food processing tools, furniture, household accessories, bedding, lighting devices, phonographs and recordings, clocks, window and floor coverings, toys and games, clothing, personal gear, and personal adornment. In addition, the collection includes armaments, small numbers of tools (farm and woodworking), paperweights, and documentary artifacts. Especially important co llections include quilts, coverlets, dolls and Illinois decoys.

Fine Arts
The Museum's fine arts collection focuses on historic and contemporary works by Illinois-related artists. Included in the collection are prints, photographs, paintings, sculpture, posters and folk-art. Three travelling exhibitions, offered to other inst itutions at a modest fee, feature significant aspects of the fine art collection. Heartfelt Handmade highlights our finest pieces of Illinois folk art, Multiple Images uses prints from the Museum collection to illustrate printmaking techniq ues, and Lenscapes is an exhibit of natural and manipulated landscape photography.

Over 200,000 specimens are curated in the geology collections, including 60 type and figured invertebrates, 6 fish types, and over 600 type and figured plant fossils. Also represented is a strong collection of Carboniferous fossils from the scientificall y and nationally significant Mazon Creek and Rock Island areas of Illinois. The vertebrate paleontology collection is one of the best Late Quaternary mammal fossil collections (50,000+ specimens) in North America; it is especially rich in Pleistocene-aged fossils from the American Midwest. Rocks and minerals in the collection number over 6,700 specimens.

The zoology collections contain over 140,000 specimens representing mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and mollusks. The museum's collections of vertebrate skeletons and fresh water mollusks are among the most extensive of their type in the U.S. They include large series for many Midwestern species and constitute one of the best comparative collections in the country for the identification of animal remains from archaeological, paleontological, and contemporary forensic contexts.

The research collections and databases are of international value and are consulted by scientists and scholars of cultural and natural history throughout the world. The ISM Loan Program is designed to achieve maximum accessibility to the collections.

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© Illinois State Museum Society-- Last updated 3-Jul-96 by John Lewis