More than a month after Gov. Bruce Rauner announced he was going to close the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, members of the public will be able to testify about the positives and negatives of shutting down the institution.

As part of a process enacted by the Legislature to rein in governors who might want to gain political leverage by threatening to close state facilities, a public hearing is set for 4 p.m. Monday at the Capitol.

But, the public already has been chiming in on the subject.

The General Assembly's budget office, known as the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, has been accepting written comments on the closure.

As of last week, over 170 people from around the world had registered their opposition to Rauner's idea, which would save about $4.8 million.

It's economic impact on the Springfield economy is estimated at $17 million. The museum drew nearly 200,000 visitors last year.

If closed, 68 people will either be laid off or will have to find other jobs within state government. Also caught up in the closure are satellite facilities like Dickson Mounds in Lewistown, a Chicago art gallery and artisans' shop, a Lockport gallery and the Southern Illinois Art and Artisan's Center at Whittington.

So, what do people think of Rauner's plan to close the museum? Not much.

Here is a sampling of some of the written comments:

Chere Steiner of Milan writes, "We routinely stop at other state capitols and museums around the country but have always felt the museum in Springfield provided the best representation of how we became who we are today. Perhaps adding a "Hall of Shame" to display our crooked politicians and charging an entry fee would generate the funds needed to keep this wonderful place open... I suggest you close the capitol building instead — nothing productive comes out of that place."

Catherine Williams of Watseka wrote, "How can any person or persons be so irresponsible and short-sighted to not see the VALUE of our museums, not only presently, but also for the future? It should not be an option for current office holders to even consider closing an institution that has benefitted the State of Illinois for over 100 years."

Nancy Pace of Benton wrote, "A world without art and culture is a dull dead place."

From Sheryl L. Murray of Macon, "I believe that if a person does not know their past, he/she cannot truly understand their present life."

Candace Summers, director of education at the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington had this to say, "I feel this is a monumentally large mistake on the part of Governor Rauner. This will not benefit the people of Illinois in any way. In fact, I feel it will only hurt our great state even more."

Carbondale resident Brian Butler, who is on the Illinois State Museum board of directors, wrote this: "It is appalling that one of the state's premier educational, cultural, and scientific institutions, a nationally regarded museum, is about to be thrown under the bus as a high value hostage in what amounts to a game of political chicken between our governor and the leaders of the legislature."

Comments came from as far away as England. Here's Rick Battarbee from University College in London: "Museums are specialist institutes that preserve, protect and interpret our culture and history. They are also places where the wider public, young and old, come to understand our place in the world and contemplate the future of society in the face of climate change and declining biodiversity."

Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, a St. Louis art gallery owner, said, "Your Museum should be treated as a crown jewel to be shown off state-wide, as well as nationally and internationally, not disposed of as some sort of ‘frill.'"

And, finally, here's what Elizabeth K. Green wrote. I could not track down a hometown for Elizabeth.

"Perhaps we could save money by turning off the electricity at the governors mansion," Ms. Green wrote. "Governor Rauner might be good at earning money as he has proven in his life but his methods that are affecting the general public leave much to be desired and that is an understatement."

Monday's hearing is in Room 212 in the Capitol. It begins at 4 p.m. Bring a snack because at least 38 people are scheduled to testify.

Follow Kurt Erickson on Twitter @Illinois_Stage


Load comments