After the Rally: How to Help Save the Illinois State Museum

rally panorama crop aaron (click for larger image)

Thanks to all who attended and our great speakers, the rally was a huge success. Check out our Rally album of photos on FB. Likewise, over 500 pages of public comments were submitted to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability by people from all walks of life and around the world.

What happens next?

Senator Any Manar has introduced a bill to keep the ISM open. We will be asking for your help soon, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, here are ways to help.

  • Sign the petition and share with your friends. We submitted over 11,000 signatures to the Governor on Rally day, but want to reach 15,000 by August 1. Help us by inviting your friends to sign it.
  • Like the FB page and invite your friends to like it. There’s no need to sign up for FB to see it.

Thanks again for being a part of democracy in action!


Lockport reopens state shuttered museum, calls on artists

lockport front large

By Frank Vaisvilas Daily Southtown

Lockport turns to “The People’s Show” to reopen its Illinois Museum

Lockport Mayor Steve Streit was dumbfounded when state workers suddenly packed up exhibit pieces and closed the Illinois Museum in the city’s downtown July 1 without informing him, and he vowed to reopen it.

“If Springfield can’t do it, we’ll do it,” he said at a July city council meeting. “Let’s fill it up. Let’s make a statement.”

The museum served as an art gallery and featured exhibits from artists around the country.

Gallery director John Lustig said he had to close the museum and return the artwork to its owners because the state stopped paying for the building’s insurance during the current budget crisis. The state’s fiscal year ended in July and nothing has yet been budgeted toward its museums.

The museum gallery is located in the historic Norton Building, 201 W. 10th St., which was built around 1850.

Streit said the city could’ve provided insurance for the building without the exhibit for the city’s 2015 Summer Art Series having to be cut short.

Now, the city has stepped in to provide insurance for the building at no additional cost, according to Lockport finance director Lisa Heglund, by simply adding it to the city’s policy.

But the artwork originally displayed had already been cleared out, so Streit and Lustig are calling on local artists to contribute to a new exhibit.

Lustig said the gallery can fit about 120 pieces of art and the “The People’s Show” exhibit is non-juried, meaning all skill levels are welcome.

He said people can begin bringing artwork Sunday afternoon and throughout the daytime hours during the week until the exhibit is filled for Friday’s opening. An event on Sunday also includes product demonstrations Dick Blick art materials and crafts for children.

Lustig said he’s open to accepting all kinds of artwork but will usually steer away from anything too political, controversial or violent.

One featured artwork in the show will be that of Julia Haw whose work had been in the gallery before it was closed.

She said rather than returning with the art she had originally displayed she wanted to work on a piece that comments on the state’s budget woes and lawmakers’ readiness to cut funding for the arts.

“I think people will understand it right away but will probably be a little upset,” Haw said.

It’s unclear when or if Springfield will continue funding for the Lockport gallery.

“Even if the budget passed today it would take two to three months just to get everything back up,” Lustig said.

So he said he expects “The People’s Show” to run for at least three months.

Meanwhile Lustig, along with many other state workers, is uncertain if he’ll be permanently laid off and hopes a budget passes soon and includes funding for his agency.

He said the museum’s annual operating expense is about $190,000, but utilities are not figured into that budget.

If his Lockport gallery has a future, he said the next exhibit he’d like to work on includes the toys of yesteryear, such as Lincoln Logs and Raggedy Ann.

Frank Vaisvilas is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

Members of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability

Members of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability

This Commission is charged with making a recommendation to the Governor whether or not the ISM should be closed. They have asked for public comments. Please submit written comments until the closing date of July 23.

A public hearing is set for July 13, 4:00 pm in Room 212 of the Capitol Building. We need you to attend and sign in as a witness in opposition–you need not testify.

If your legislator is on the Commission, we urge you to contact them before the hearing.

*Sen. Donne Trotter (D: 17th District)      Co-Chair      Chicago

(217) 782-3201 or (773) 933-7715              Website               District Map

*Rep. Donald Moffitt (R: 74th District)        Co-Chair   Galesburg, Kewanee

(217) 782-8032 or (309) 343-8000              Website/Email       District Map

*Sen. David Koehler (D: 46th District)        Peoria area

(217) 782-8250 or (309) 677-0120               Website/Email       District Map

*Rep. Kelly Burke (D: 36th District)              Oak Lawn

(217) 782-0515 or (708) 425-0571                Website/Email        District Map

*Sen. Matt Murphy (R: 27th District)            NW Chicago suburbs

(217) 782-4471 or (847) 776-1490                 Website/Email         District Map

*Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D: 57th District)          NW Chicago suburbs

(217) 782-1004 or (847) 229-5499                Website/Email        District Map

*Sen. Chapin Rose (R: 51th District)            Champaign/Decatur area

(217) 558-1006, (217) 607-1853 (C)              Website/Email         District Map

217-330-9356 (Decatur)

*Rep. Raymond Poe (R: 99th District)          Springfield area

(217) 782-0044                                              Website/Email        District Map

*Sen. Heather Sterns (D: 7th District)            North City,  Chicago

(217) 782-8492 or (773)-769-1717                 Website/Email        District Map

*Rep. Al Riley (D: 38th District)                       South Chicago suburbs

(217) 558-1007 or (708) 799-4364                  Website/Email        District Map

*Sen. Dave Syverson (R: 35th District)            Rockford, DeKalb, Winnebago Co.

(217)  782-5413 or (815)-987-7555                 Website/Email        District Map

Rep. Michael Unes R: (91st District)                 E. Peoria, Pekin, Canton, Lewistown, Fulton Co.

(217) 782-8152 or (309) 620-8631                    Website/Email        District Map



  1. Submit public comments to the Commission

–Use our cut & paste talking points on this blog to build your comments

–Read public comments (follow link) already submitted to get ideas

2.    Contact Commission Members in your area. (See Members blog post here.)

3.    Come to the public hearing July 13, 4:00 p.m. @ Rm 212 Capitol Bldg. Check in as a witness in opposition—you do not have to testify.

4.     Come to the Rally July 21 at Noon at the Capitol Bldg. Bring your friends of all ages! We’ll have signs and tees.

5.     Sign the petition and share with friends. We plan to submit 10,000+ signatures to the Commission on Rally day.

6.     Like the FB page and invite your friends to like it. There’s no need to sign up for FB to see it.

7.    Check out the rest of our blog. Sign up to get an email whenever we post.

The Springfield Race Riot of 1908, the NAACP, and the Illinois State Museum

postcard riot

By law, artifacts excavated at the 1908 Springfield Race Riot site were to be curated at the ISM. Over the years, ISM has developed a close relationship with the Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum, working collaboratively to preserve the rich historical record of African-American life.

In preparing for rail consolidation for Springfield’s high-speed rail, an archaeological survey was conducted in accordance with federal law.  As it happens, the rail line goes right through the area in which victims of the riot lived, and archaeologists discovered remains from the houses.

The riot was a brutal two-day assault by several thousand white citizens on the black community, sparked by the arrest of two African America suspects in violent crimes against whites. When the mob that had gathered to lynch the men discovered the sheriff had transferred them out of the city, it rioted in black neighborhoods, killing black citizens on the street and destroyed businesses and homes. The next day the governor sent in thousands of militia to restore order.

The riot in Abraham Lincoln’s hometown demonstrated the need for an effective national civil rights organization. The riot is considered an important precipitating event in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1909, a biracial group of activists, including W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Archibald Grimke, Henry Moskowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, Florence Kelley, and William English Walling–the last son of a former slave-holding family–met to form the organization.

The ISM is the legally designated repository for the race riot site’s artifacts, field notes, maps and reports. Where will all the artifacts and records from the survey and excavations go—not to mention all the other  surveys and excavations in the ISM collections?  Who is going to keep the site files for the entire state?  What will happen to the millions of artifacts the ISM has under these laws?  Neither the Governor nor DNR is providing any answers to these important questions.

Submitting comments: Cut and Paste Talking Points

capitol build

CONTACT the COMMISSION HERE (oral testimony or written comments)


Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability

ATTN: Facility Closure 703 Stratton Building Springfield, IL 62706


Facility Being Closed: Illinois State Museum System

Position: Opposed

I urge the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability to make a recommendation against closing the Illinois State Museum (ISM) System.

I am a [citizen, parent, artist, scientist, student, etc.  Add a sentence or two about your experience and interaction with the ISM.]

I oppose closing the ISM for the reasons listed below: [Select one or two points you think are important. Copy and paste into your comments.  Don’t try to cover everything—long comments are less likely to be read.]


  • The ISM is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. (Fewer than 5% of museums are accredited.) An external team audited ISM and concluded that its exhibits, collections management procedures, and staff of highly trained professionals made it worthy of accreditation. Closure means losing accreditation which could take years to get back.
  • The professional staff includes experienced and respected scientists, historians, and museum professionals, with specialties in fields such as anthropology, archaeology, the decorative arts,  paleontology, botany, geology, and zoology. They will either leave or be let go, taking with them irreplaceable knowledge of the collections and their fields of expertise.
  • ISM facilities house and protect more than 12.5 million objects including artworks, scientific specimens, historic artifacts and documents, archaeological and ethnographic collections. They preserve our collective cultural and natural heritage. Closing the ISM ends access to these collections–and the knowledge which is generated–for both the public and researchers. Moving artifacts elsewhere will jeopardize these irreplaceable collections.
  • Closure will be costly for taxpayers and is a betrayal of the families of Illinois citizens who donated materials to the ISM museum with the understanding that they would be shared with the public in perpetuity. Some donors may pursue legal actions against the state regarding access and preservation. Closure especially impacts ISM’s unique collection of Native American artifacts, including human remains and sacred tribal objects which are governed by written agreements and federal law.
  • ISM scientists conduct research that is internationally recognized, collaborating with others on complex, multi-disciplinary projects. Researchers rely on the Research and Collections Center in Springfield to do their work. University professors routinely expose their students, undergraduate to Ph.D.s, to the expertise of the ISM staff, as well as collections and facilities. Closure will jeopardize our position and reputation as a state at the forefront of scientific research and development.
  • The ISM hosts public lectures, cultural events, concerts, and educational programs that help educate the public, build community partnerships, encourage civic engagement, and provides spaces where life-long friendships and business connections are made.


  • The MacLean Play Museum in Springfield engages young children in science education through creative play. It hosts “Saturplay,” a free hands-on program that reached 7,000 people in 2014. The ISM’s summer camp allows students to explore art and science in a fun-filled atmosphere that creates a love of learning. The ISM educational programs aimed at children serve the entire community and are especially important for low-income families.
  • 2,300 teachers and 40,000 school children visit the ISM annually. A fieldtrip to one of the ISM facilities is affordable for school districts operating on tight budgets and is often a highlight of the year for students. Educational staff specialize in creating excellent lesson plans that accompany exhibits. Plans and other educational materials are available online to anyone who can access the internet.
  • Older students often volunteer at the museum as docents and research assistants. Their museum experience helps them succeed in school and prepares them to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, as well as the social sciences and humanities.


  • In 2014, the ISM system saw over 370,000 on-site visitors, including 2,300 teachers and 40,000 school children. Another 1.5 million virtual visitors used its online resources. Visitors were enriched by its educational, cultural, and economic opportunities.

Chicago Galleries and Illinois Artisans Shop: 103,000 visitors Dickson Mounds in Lewistown:  50,000 visitors Lockport Gallery: 14,000 visitors Southern Illinois Art Gallery near Sesser: 18,000 visitors Springfield: 200,000 visitors

  • Visitors to the ISM spend an estimated $33 million dollars in Illinois each year. Nationally, visitors to historic, cultural and museum sites stay 53% longer and spend 36% more money than other tourists. The ISM site in Springfield alone contributes an estimated $17 million to the local economy.
  • ISM facilities and grant projects add another $8.4 million to the state economy in goods and services.   ISM attracts about $2 million in federal grants to Illinois each year.
  • The ISM annual budget of $6.29 million is 0.0072% of 2015 FY state budget of $87.4 billion. It is 0.157% of the 2015 FY $4 billion shortfall.


For these reasons, I respectfully request that you recommend against the closure of the Illinois State Museum System facilities. Thank you for your consideration.  [Your name]

News articles and letters about closing the ISM


July 7                   Hyperallergic: Sensitive to Art & its Discontents

July 1                    WUIS (public radio, Springfield) Interview of Eliide Lakota

June 25                 Journal-Standard  article (Freeport,IL)

June 25                 Chicago Tribune  article (subscription needed or read here)

June 25                 Illinois Times  Guest Opinion (Springfield weekly)

June 25                 State Journal Register Olson Letter to Editor (Springfield)

June 25                 State Journal Register O’Gorman Letter to Editor (Springfield)

June 25                 Capitol   blog (web blog on Illinois state politics)

June 25                 American Historical Association letter

June 23                 Chicago Reader  article (weekly newspaper)

June 13                 Mostly Mammoths, Mummies and Museums  blog

June 12                 Letter from state and national museum associations

June 10                 State Journal Register  article (Springfield)

June 5                   Pantagraph article (Bloomington/Normal)

June 4                   Quad Cities Times article

June 2                   Chicago Sun Times article

June 2                   Southern Illinoisan article (Carbondale)