Statement from Arts Alliance Illinois on Illinois State Museum
Yesterday at 5:00 pm, the Illinois State Museum and its branch facilities closed their doors to the public -- not just for the day but indefinitely. After 138 years of preserving our heritage and sharing Illinois’ cultural and natural history with the world, the state museum system is now closed.
Closing the Illinois State Museum system (ISM) is catastrophically short-sighted and unwise. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has stated that the closure is necessary to address the budget crisis, but that is a hollow claim. The alleged savings of $4.8 million represents just 1/10th of one percent of the State's projected deficit. Moreover, ISM generates $33 million annually in economic activity, including tourism. How does shutting down this economic engine help the State or our economy? It doesn't.
No one is experiencing this loss more acutely than the dedicated ISM staff. Non-unionized ISM employees lost their jobs yesterday, and unionized workers must now report to a closed institution and await the results of legal action.
The talented archivists, curators, educators, scientists, technicians and other ISM employees have shown extraordinary professionalism under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Over the last few months, the staff has continued to tell Illinois' story to citizens, school children and tourists -- even under the pressure of pending closure. To the dedicated ISM staff, Arts Alliance Illinois says thank you.
Closing a state treasure is troubling, and equally as troubling is what this situation symbolizes: our political system in Illinois is badly broken. The inability of our state’s leaders to keep ISM open reflects an environment where partisanship trumps progress and where politics is placed above the people. As a result, the people's collection of more than 13 million cultural artifacts and works of art is now locked away from the public. We owe ourselves and our state better.
To the thousands of people who spoke-up and spoke-out for our state museum in meetings with lawmakers, at public hearings and community rallies, in the media, and online -- know that this fight is far from over. The State Museum has survived for more than a century - including two World Wars and the Great Depression - and we are determined it will survive this current crisis.
Arts Alliance Illinois calls upon Governor Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and Senate President John Cullerton to end the budget stalemate and reopen the state museum’s doors to the people of Illinois.
Executive Director, Arts Alliance Illinois