Advocacy Alert: Oct. 1

Statement from Laura L. Lott, President & CEO of the American Alliance of Museums, on the Closure of the Illinois State Museum System

“Illinois’ Treasures Trapped Behind Shuttered Doors.”

OCTOBER 1—Following news that the Illinois State Museum has officially closed its doors to the public due to a budget impasse between the Illinois governor and state legislature, Laura L. Lott, president and chief executive officer of the American Alliance of Museums, made the following statement. “For more than 138 years, the Illinois State Museum (ISM) system has served the public without interruption. Until now.  

Sadly, however, the ISM System has become a casualty in the Illinois budget battle. It should have never come to this.
 
Museums that comprise the ISM system are a vital part of Illinois’ economy. More than $30 million is spent in Illinois communities by ISM visitors—with about $18 million spent in Springfield alone. Closing the ISM System threatens this source of vitality.
 
Perhaps even worse than the effect on the economy that comes with closure are the wounds to the pride the ISM takes as a well-managed system that operated with distinction. For more than 40 years, this Illinois gem has served as a national model by meeting the highest standards of the museum field by gaining and maintaining accreditation—a mark held by only three percent of institutions nationwide. Now that the ISM System is closed, this long-held accreditation could be at risk. The state also risks defaulting on grants, contracts, and loans, which could open the state to potential lawsuits from federal agencies and private donors. Illinois could lose also its top notch researchers and historians.
 
Finally, this closure wounds the promise made back in 1877 to the citizens of Illinois—a promise that lives in its mission statement to “engage people of all ages in their own discovery and lifelong learning about the natural and cultural heritage of Illinois and its place within the world.”
 
This rich history of serving the citizens of Illinois with pride, professionalism and commitment to excellence has now been interrupted, and with it, has shuttered Illinois’ treasures from the very people it was meant to serve—both Illinois citizens as well as tourists from other states and internationally.
 
The students of Illinois deserve better. It is unacceptable that more than 40,000 Illinois students will lose the opportunity to take part in field trips that bring to life the state’s own curriculum. It’s such a loss on so many levels.
 
The citizens of Illinois are still counting on our elected leaders to do the right thing on behalf of a vital 138-year institution. Let’s not hide Illinois’ heritage and treasure hidden behind closed doors and away from 387,000 tourists, researchers and children.
 
I call on Governor Rauner and the state legislature to end the budget impasse and immediately re-open the doors of the Illinois State Museum System.”

Museum supporters can lend their voice to the cause by contacting Governor Rauner.
 
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ABOUT THE ALLIANCE:
 
The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. The Alliance is proud to represent 30,000 museums, individuals, and corporate partners and is dedicated to ensuring that museums remain a vital part of our communities, connecting people with the greatest achievements of the human experience, past, present and future.
 
On June 12, the Alliance joined several state and national associations of museums on a letter to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner expressing concern at the proposed closure of the Illinois State Museum System. In July, Laura L. Lott, the American Alliance of Museums president and chief executive officer, submitted testimony to the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability urging immediate action to keep the Illinois State Museum system open.