News Local/State

State Museum Reopens, Looks To Go Digital

The Illinois State Museum in Springfield.

The Illinois State Museum in Springfield. WUIS

The Illinois State Museum in Springfield is once again open to visitors, after a nine-month hiatus. The formerly-free museum is now charging a $5 admission fee.

Supporters of the museum fought to keep it open, and were devastated when Governor Bruce Rauner in October carried through on his threat to close it.

Rauner said Illinois didn't have the money to keep it operating. It's unclear just how much Illinois saved; a lawsuit kept the museum's union employees on the job.

Even so, Director Mike Wiant, says in the intervening time, "the staff of the Illinois State Museum has been cut in half, in round numbers. We've lost a significant number of quality people."

Leadership of the board has also changed over.

Wiant says the museum won't be what it once was for quite some time. But he says, it's time to rebuild and revitalize.

He says the museum will begin soliciting applicants for jobs, like geology specialists.

Already, the lobby's gotten a facelift. And Wiant has goals of bringing museum collections to the web.

"We want to expand our presence to a much broader audience, and we think the digital world is the best way to do that, as many have,” said Wiant.

He says the museum is setting up a YouTube channel featuring behind-the-scenes conversations with curators. He also has a goal of making digital copies of museum records and collections that can then be shared online.

Wiant says it's a big undertaking, which will take time to build.