The Illinois State Museum brings to life the history, culture, and heritage of the people of Illinois. Located in Springfield, the museum is home to extensive collections that illuminate the land, art, and people of Illinois. The State Museum in Illinois is free and open to the public, and it offers both permanent and temporary exhibits. With a goal of increasing appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of the state, the museum also has branches in other parts of the state, including Lewistown, Lockport, Whittington, and Chicago.
Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809, making 2009 an important year for the museum. In celebration of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial, Illinois State Museum in Springfield curated an original exhibition called From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln’s Illinois 1830-1861. Visitors who are interested in Lincoln's role in the state might also visit the Lincoln Presidential Library and the state capitol, two popular and educational tourist attractions that are also located in Springfield.
While featuring Illinois history is an important aspect to the work of the museum, featuring local artists is also a crucial part of the exhibitions. Through introducing local artists, the Illinois State Museum opens doors to further education. Designing exhibits with the idea in mind that educational experiences can be more fun and interesting, the museum seeks to shape aesthetic values and improve the overall quality of visitors' experience at the museum.
The Illinois Natural History Museum is open daily, with shorter hours of noon to 5 pm on Sundays. Closed on major holidays, the exhibition is otherwise open year-round to students, researchers, academics, and anyone with an interest in the cultural heritage of Illinois. With a focus on the natural history of the state, the land and people are the focus of many exhibitions. For example, Peoples of the Past presents life-size dioramas and specially crafted artifacts to bring to life the Native American history of Illinois. An anthropology exhibit features archeological discoveries including pottery, tools, and weapons.
The State Museum in Illinois also houses a hands-on children’s area called A Place for Discovery. Here, art and nature are discovered by children of all ages through touching, listening, and creating. For adults, an especially poignant exhibit is called At Home in the Heartland. This exhibit allows visitors to listen to the life story of people from Illinois. The dramatic changes in life over the last 300 years are felt through the words of those who lived it. In addition, a shock to all visitors will be felt in the exhibition, Changes: Dynamic Illinois Environments, which explains how Illinois was once a tropical sea rich with marine life. History over millions of years is revealed in this exhibit at the Illinois Natural History Museum.
Many events are planned at the Illinois State Museum beyond the exhibitions. If you live close to Springfield or plan on spending some time there, options for film nights, a science series and historical investigations are plentiful. If you enjoyed your visit to the State Museum in Illinois, many publications are available as well. From scholars to general-interest books about Illinois, the educational opportunities continue once you’ve left the doors of the museum. An important resource to the region, the Illinois Natural History Museum places local heritage, culture, and art at the forefront of education and discovery.