Today is an important day for museums and cultural institutions across the state of Illinois. Today is Illinois Museums Advocacy Day, and the Museums, Arts and Cultural Enhancement committee –chaired by State Representative Camille Lilly – is having a subject matter hearing on the importance of museum funding and community support. We’re proud to be a participant in today’s hearing, and are honored that Representative Lilly and other committee members are using today to fight for museums and recognize the impact we have on our communities.
Earlier this year, we were honored to be named a finalist for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It’s truly an honor to be nominated for an award that recognizes museums and libraries that have made extraordinary contributions to their communities, and we were thrilled to be given the chance to highlight some of that work.
Our staff consists of a variety of professionals – from scientists and educators to beekeepers and horticulturists – and it has been that way since we were originally founded 160 years ago. The Academy opened in 1857 and our founders dreamed it could be a place for people to discover and connect with the beauty of the land, and to protect the open lands they cherished. We’ve become that and so much more. In fact, for 160 years we’ve been at the forefront of scientific research and environmental studies and maintain a collection filled with Illinois natural history specimens – all of which tell a critical part of our state’s story.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is an essential part of Chicago’s cultural and education community and a fun place to visit. We bring nature and science to an urban population that is often detached from nature and natural areas. We provide an enticing window into an urban nature sanctuary, a place to experience the sights and sounds of authentic nature that can never be replicated on a computer.
We understand the importance of nature to our quality of life, so we allocate our resources with a priority on education – our biggest department. In the Museum and out in the classrooms throughout underserved schools, we work directly with students and teachers to help make nature and science alive. This is particularly critical since STEM education is a national priority.
When we take our customized programs into schools, we bring specimens from our one-of-a-kind, nearly 400,000 piece collection, the definitive gathering of our city and region’s natural history. Students also see the collection up close on field trips.
We take on challenging topics and help people understand how nature and people affect one another. Our self-curated, fact-based exhibits bring people closer to nature and encourage dialogue on pressing topics such as climate change. For example, our newest exhibit Our House, helps people think about how our choices affect the environment and what actions they can take as a family to live more sustainably. Meanwhile, our scientists’ pioneering conservation efforts are giving rare and endangered species such as the Blanding’s Turtle, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, and the Smooth Green Snake a new lease on life, adding diversity to our ecosystem.
These are just a few of the ways we touch the communities around us, experiences that only we can provide. We’re proud that Representative Lilly and Museums, Arts and Cultural Enhancement committee are recognizing and fighting on behalf of museums today, and we hope that you will, too.