Letter to the Editor:
Illinois has produced numerous leaders for our nation, including our most revered president, Abraham Lincoln. Over the past 200 years, the state has played a central role in the industrial and agricultural development of America. Illinois has also been a leader in culture and education, with excellent orchestras, universities and museums. How then can the state possibly be verging on the unthinkable – closing the much-acclaimed Illinois State Museum?I’ll share one example: Dr. Eric Grimm is a scientist whose specialty is uncovering long term changes in our natural world. His brilliant studies have illuminated the history of vegetation and climate in Illinois and beyond. Research in his field involves collection of sediment cores from lakes and bogs and the measurement of changes in abundance of fossil pollen grains that have been dispersed by different plants since the last ice age. An array of sites then allows mapping of landscape dynamics, revealing how the natural world has shifted. Why does this matter? Only by understanding the long term natural variability of the climate and related systems can we understand our modern world.Dr. Grimm is a nationally and internationally renowned scientist. With the closure of the Illinois State Museum, he would certainly leave and his expertise and experience would be irreplaceable. I urge the proud citizens of the Land of Lincoln to prevent that closing. Anything less would be a shame in every sense of the word.
Since 1988, Grimm has been a leader and innovator in Illinois and globally. He pioneered essential research techniques and realized that gathering and curating data from sites all across Illinois, North America and other continents would provide a powerful tool for understanding change. Having competed for national funding from NOAA and NSF, he led the creation of what is now a global database used daily by scientists, archaeologists, historians and others. He personally wrote the computer code for a program now used daily – at almost no cost – by thousands of scholars throughout the world.
Perhaps the citizens of Illinois don’t realize the treasure housed in Springfield. Even in Maine I have had firsthand experience with both the museum and its researchers and curators. The excellent exhibits provide a wonderful journey through the state’s natural and cultural history. The museum also has a superb staff, including top-flight scholars who oversee collections and conduct research that provides context.
How can Illinois possibly be verging on the unthinkable – closing the Illinois State Museum?
—George L. Jacobson, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Ecology and Climate Change, University of Maine, Orono, Maine
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