In a budgetary battle with the Illinois state legislature, Governor Bruce Rauner has closed the Illinois State Museum in Springfield and its four satellite institutions, sending a tragic signal to all concerned. Facing more than a $5 billion deficit, Rauner’s administration has marked the state museum for the ultimate cut, though initial savings may be less than a few hundred thousand dollars.
The move is counterproductive. The Illinois State Museum is a vibrant example of the essential contributions identified by the History Relevance Campaign: “History museums are a catalyst for economic growth. People are drawn to communities that have preserved a strong sense of historical identity and character. Cultural heritage preserved and interpreted in museums is a demonstrated economic asset and an essential component of any vibrant economy, providing an infrastructure that attracts tourists and talent, and enhances business development.”
History organizations, such as the Illinois State Museum, also inspire people with examples of leadership and problem solving in the past, for solving complex challenges we face today. The “discovery and caring about Illinois’ cultural and natural resources and heritage” promised in the museum’s mission statement lays the groundwork for strong, resilient communities and enables individuals to find their own place in stories of their towns, state, and nation. History museums help people become engaged citizens.
The American Association for State and Local History is committed to supporting the institutions, organizations, and individuals who preserve and interpret the past. The AASLH Statement of Professional Standards and Ethics states that history museums are obligated to protect the collections they hold in the public trust. World-class collections and staff are invaluable resources that have taken years to build. Shuttering public access and threatening the security and future existence of the artifacts, records, and valuable educational resources of the Illinois State Museum puts the historic record for the state of Illinois and the museums’ holdings at serious risk.
We urge Gov. Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly to work together to reopen the Illinois State Museum and to keep it fully operational for the benefit of the citizens of Illinois and the nation.
You can contact Gov. Bruce Rauner on this site.