from the Washington Museum Association Board of Directors
28 October 2015

Statement on the Closure of the Illinois State Museum System

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has closed the 138-year old Illinois State Museum (ISM) in Springfield, IL, along with its four satellite institutions, in a misguided effort to close a reported $5 billion state budget deficit.  The move has provoked outrage from Illinois museum-goers as well as museum professionals represented by the American Alliance of Museum (AAM) and the Association for State and Local History (AASLH).  Gov. Rauner’s actions send a message that risks unleashing a spiral of no confidence among grant funders, foundations, universities, researchers, historians, and museum professionals.  The AAM’s Accreditation Commission last week voted to put the ISM on probation, for example, citing grave concerns about the museum system’s future viability.
We condemn the interruption in the service of these venerable institutions and we strongly urge Gov. Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly to work together toward a solution that reopens the Illinois State Museum system for the benefit of Illinois residents, students, and visitors.  An estimated 387,000 visitors will be turned away from these five museums this year, including 40,000 Illinois students who will lose the opportunity to participate in field trips that enhance their educational experience. More than $30 million in visitor spending will be lost to the Illinois economy, even as some studies show that initial savings from this closure will be less than a few hundred thousand dollars.
The Washington Museum Association is committed to supporting our fellow state museum systems in their endeavors to protect and preserve their collections, provide lifelong education to their residents and tourists, and create experiences that enrich their workforce and stimulate economic development.  We know that solutions can be crafted that avoid balancing state or local budgets on the backs of cultural institutions. One example is Detroit’s “grand bargain,” in which foundations, private donors, and the State of Michigan teamed up to put the Detroit Institute of Art into a public trust that removes it from future budget debates.
Please urge Gov. Rauner to pursue creative solutions that reverse the closure of the Illinois State Museum system, by contacting him at