Illinois State Museum On Its Way To Recovery

Illinois State Capitol
Illinois State Capitol | © Daniel Schwen/WikiCommons
Elizabeth Newhart

The Illinois State Museum (ISM) system is slowly reopening across Illinois after last year’s state budget crisis forced the galleries and centers to unexpectedly shutter.
The ISM was founded in 1877 and had its first location in the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield. It originated as an institution of natural history, geology, and biology. Its headquarters remain in the state capital, though it has since expanded throughout Illinois.

Illinois House of Representatives Chamber at the State Capitol

Five locations once comprised the ISM system – Chicago, Springfield, Lockport, Dickson Mounds, and Rend Lake. Governor Bruce Rauner ordered the Department of Natural Resources to begin closing these cultural centers during the 2015 state budget impasse.

In early July 2016, Springfield and Dickson Mounds reopened, or more specifically, the Illinois State Museum and the Research and Collections Center in Springfield and the Dickson Mounds Museum near Lewistown. The main ISM campus in Springfield now charges a $5 admission fee for all adults 18 and over, though the others remain free of charge as they were before the closings.

But according to the Chicago Tribune, another location rejoined the list of active sites on September 24th when the Lockport Gallery opened its doors once again. Their first exhibit pokes fun at the situation by simply being titled Open. The city of Lockport pitched in to split the cost of the building’s $24,000 annual rent, which was a major reason for its rapid reopening.

Lockport Gallery

According to its official ISM website, the gallery highlights ‘changing exhibitions of art created by past and contemporary Illinois artists and artisans. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, quilts, and other decorative and ethnographic arts are showcased in rotating, theme-based exhibitions augmented by interpretive materials.’

The Lockport Gallery is now open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m.-5 p.m., with free parking and admission.

The Rend Lake location, which housed the Southern Illinois Art and Artisans Center, will likely not reopen due to its previous poor attendance in comparison with the other museums. However, the Chicago Gallery location in the Thompson Center is said to be returning to a different building before the end of 2016.

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