Southern Illinois University

Southern Illinois University



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Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. University Museum and Art Galleries. | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. University Museum and Art Galleries.

Historical Note:

The University Museum occupies the first floor of the north wing of Faner Hall. It has 10,000 square feet of exhibition space in two halls, North and South. The University Museum serves Southern Illinois University Carbondale and its many constituencies, near and far, as a steward of the past and a gateway to the future.

From 1869 to 1874 Dr. Cyrus Thomas was charged to assemble a University Museum for Southern Illinois Normal University.  Thomas was a nationally known entomologist, an attorney in Murphysboro, brother-in-law to General John A. Logan, principal for the school at DeSoto, and a minister in the Lutheran Church.  He became the Curator of the Museum, Professor of Natural Science and the State Entomologist.  The Museum formally opened to the public in 1874 and was located in the first Old Main Building, also called Old Normal.  George Hazen French was the Museum's second curator (1879-1917).  In 1883 the Normal Building and the Museum collections burned.  Both were replaced in the new "Old" Main in 1887. Since then, it has occupied 11 different locations across campus, the University Museum has been relocated numerous times: to Old Main (1887-1896 and 1911- 1936 and 1967-1969), to Altgeld Hall (1897-1911 and 1955-1967), to Parkinson Laboratory (1936-1955), and since 1974 to Faner Hall.

From 1938-1942, Works Projects Administration workers were located at the University to create permanent exhibits and handsome new wood exhibition cases (none of which survive), preparing bird and mammal specimens, pioneer dioramas of Southern Illinois (on exhibit almost continuously ever since), and loan materials for area schools.  As many as twenty-eight workers were busy on Museum projects, working in the basement of Altgeld.  This period also saw a greater emphasis placed on history, particularly local history that flourished under local historian John Willis Allen (author of Legends and Lore of Southern Illinois and many newspaper columns), who began as a WPA worker and became director from 1943-1950.  Increased emphasis was also given to archaeological work in the area, particularly in cooperation with research by the University of Chicago.

The museum storage building on McLafferty Road was built in 1971.  This decade saw the establishment of the Museum Studies minor program and a friends group.  1977: The University Museum and Art Gallery was accredited by the American Association of Museums, one of the early recipients of this national recognition.  Also in this year, the Museum's archaeological collections were moved to the newly created Center for Archaeological Investigations with research and personnel transferred to the CAI.  In 1975 the University Museum and the University Art Galleries were combined into one administrative unit responsible to the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research Services, the Museum called "The University Museum and Art Gallery", And lastly in 1985 Museum's name was changed from University Museum and Art Galleries to the University Museum.

The American Association of Museums has accredited the University Museum since 1977, and re-accredited it in, 1987, and in 2000 .  In 2006  the Museum received the American Association for State and Local History's Award of Excellence in Exhibits for "Words, Wood & Wire: The History of Southern Illinois as told through Folk Songs & Musical Instruments," curated by Linda Smith.  The Museum founded SIAM, Southern Illinois Association of Museums, with colleagues from Carterville and Murphysboro.

Note Author: Matt Gorzalski

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