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Four Hour Hearing on Future of Illinois Museums

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Rich Egger
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Dickson Mounds Museum near Lewistown would be closed as part of the governor's plan.

Supporters of the Illinois State Museum spent hours Monday fighting for its future. Governor Bruce Rauner has recommended closing the museum and its collections center as well as Dickson Mounds and satellite sites.

But advocates told legislators at a public hearing that shutting down the museum would open the door to lawsuits and close off a venue that preserves Illinois' heritage.

William Legge, who heads the Springfield Boys and Girls Club, said politicians should consider children who rely on the museum to learn about Illinois history.

“While on field trips to the museum, our youth have explored the national history of Illinois dating back thousands of years,” Legge said.

“They've created art projects and built towering structures out of Legos. At an overnight camp-in at the museum, our kids walked in the footsteps of mammoths and mastodons.”

Rauner said he's closing the museum to save money during a budget impasse. 

Advocates contend the estimated savings of nearly $5 million is a drop in the bucket relative to the overall budget. Some suggested charging a small fee for entry.  Admission now is free.

While the Rauner administration suggested closure could be temporary, museum leaders say once it is closed it would be difficult to re-open. By then, staff might have moved on, donors will have been turned away, and the museum will likely have lost its accreditation.