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More Bad News for Illinois State Museum

Lisa Ryan
The Illinois State Museum

The Illinois State Museum is in danger of losing is accreditation, and Governor Bruce Rauner's administration said there is no way to know whether the museum will ever reopen.

At the beginning of the month, the state museum in Springfield closed its doors to visitors; so did the museum's Chicago, Lockport and Rend Lake galleries, and the Dickson Mounds archeological site.

That alone means the museum no longer meets accreditation criteria set by a national commission; the standards require qualified museums be open to the public.

The Illinois State Museum's accreditation hasn't been pulled yet. But the American Alliance of Museum's commission Tuesday unanimously voted to put in on probation.

“The actions by the Illinois state government that forced the Illinois State Museum system to close to the public left us no choice but to place this museum on probation pending further information from the museum system," commission chairman Burt Logan said in a statement.

"We have grave concerns about the impact of this closure on the long-term viability of the museum, including affecting its ability to retain a professional staff and operate at the highest professional level; impairing the museum’s ability to care for the 13.5 million specimens in its collection..."

Logan said the commission will review the museum's status at its next meeting.

Just over 1,000 museums nationwide are accredited, the highest mark of distinction in the museum field. The Illinois State Museum has held that status since 1972.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), whose district touches Springfield and who tried to keep the museum open, said the probation news should come as no surprise.

"It underscores the fact that once you dismantle a system like the one we have today it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild it," he said.

Gov. Rauner said he shuttered the facilities because it's prudent financial management. In a statement his spokeswoman says until there's a budget, the administration can't say if there will be money to reopen the museum.

The Republican plans to layoff museum employees, but workers are still on the payroll for now, pending court action.