Collections & Research
Research & Collections
Decorative Arts
Fine Arts
Collection Basics
People at the Museum
Activities & Resources
Teacher Orientation
      Collections In this Research and Collections section, you will learn what the Illinois State Museum collects, how it collects objects, what it does with the collections, and how it cares for the collections. Each discipline in the museum: fine art, decorative art, anthropology, botany, geology, and zoology, has its own methods of collecting, using, and caring for objects, artifacts, and specimens.

Why do the Illinois State Museum curators collect objects? 

  • We collect objects to record human and natural history. 
  • We collect to fulfill our mission, which is to preserve and interpret the natural, cultural, and artistic heritage of Illinois. 
  • We collect within our scope, which includes human cultures and natural environments of Illinois.
  • We collect art, artifacts, fossils, and other geological and natural history specimens that further our knowledge of Illinois.
How does the Illinois State Museum obtain collections?
  • Individual people donate family objects to the museum. For example, Mr. Albert Small's children gave the museum three quilts that he made in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • The Museum curators purchase some objects that will add valuable information to the collection.
  • Museum curators go into the field to collect from natural sites and from archaeological sites. For example, botanists collect pollen samples from lake beds; geologists find and collect fossils from caves; archaeologists dig in sites where artifacts have been discovered.

How do people use the Museum's collections?

Researchers who work for the museum and researchers from outside the museum use the collections to 

  • compare to other collections they study
  • increase their knowledge of Illinois history and natural history
  • help them write papers and books on topics represented in the collections
  • create exhibits for the museum and for other museums
  • get accurate information for scientific paintings, dioramas, and illustrations.
How does the staff of the Museum take care of the objects in the collections?
  • They preserve the objects carefully in climate-controlled storage areas.
  • They protect the objects on exhibit with special furniture and equipment.
  • They restore and repair objects when necessary. For example, the decorative arts curator arranged for the restoration of a child's wagon so it could go on exhibit.
To learn more about these topics, explore the Research and Collections Web pages for each academic subject.
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