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Illinois State Museum Set To Close By September's End

Lisa Ryan

If you've been meaning to visit the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, the Dickson Mounds archeological site, or museum shops in Lockport and Chicago, you have one month left to do it.

A spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, which manages the sites, says they're set to close Sept. 30. That's also when layoffs will take effect for all but three museum employees, who will be kept on to safeguard collections. The spokesman was unable to say what preparations are being made as that date nears. The spokesman's statements on Friday signify that Rauner's stance on the museum hasn't changed, despite efforts to persuade him to keep it open to visitors. 

Jacque Ferguson, a Springfield resident who says she likes visiting the museum, points out that Native American artifacts are on display there, and that says a federal law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act requires tribal access.

"So I've been in contact with the tribes about this, and they're not happy. And there probably will be lawsuits." She and other advocates, like Erika Holst, a curator at Springfield's Art Association -- have asked legislators to help save the museum.

"The people of Illinois are asking for this museum to stay open," she told a bipartisan legislative commission. "This is our story, this is our legacy. There's a lot of talk about dollars and cents and the budget and the budget shortfall and where this falls. But I think some things are worth more than money, that you can't put a price tag on."

The commission did vote against its closure, but it's ultimately Gov. Rauner's decision; he says there's no money.

The Senate has approved legislation that would require the state to keep the museum operational. But even if it also passes the House, timing, finances and a potential veto mean the issue wouldn't be settled.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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