* The governor has often bemoaned the number of people who are leaving Illinois. Well…
Last week paleoecologist Eric Grimm, the director of science at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, rented an 8-meter-long truck, bought $500 worth of lumber, and built temporary shelves in the back. Then, with the help of his wife and former coworkers, he loaded his cargo: roughly 30 sediment cores drilled from lake bottoms.
The cores, which hold pollen grains, minerals, and other clues that help researchers reconstruct past environments, had been stored at the museum where Grimm has worked for 28 years. But the museum is scheduled to close on 1 October as the result of a tense budget standoff between the state’s Democrat-led General Assembly and its Republican governor. So Grimm is moving his collection to the University of Minnesota’s National Lacustrine Core Repository (LacCore) in Minneapolis. And he’s retiring from his post at the museum—with a certain sense of dismay.
“It’s a travesty,” Grimm says of the political stalemate that has dominated Illinois for months, and the consequences for the museum. “I think it’s political corruption and malevolent anti-intellectualism.”
Grimm isn’t the only one mourning the imminent closure of the 138-year-old Illinois State Museum and four related sites. Researchers know the museum as the home to the largest collection of mastodon fossils in the world, databases used by international scientists, and artifacts from native Midwestern tribes. Its collection includes some 13.5 million objects, including 8.5 million anthropological and archaeological artifacts. The museum also hosts a relatively small but active research program, run by a staff of 10 curators and scientists. […]
For now, Grimm and his colleagues are continuing to pack up their boxes. Soon, he’ll be driving to Minnesota to sort his sediment cores and preparing to move from Illinois. “I can’t even stand to look at it,” Grimm says of the museum closure. “You watch the whole thing you helped build be brought down basically because of politics.”
“I am very disappointed they are moving forward with the closure,” said Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, who said he’s had “ongoing discussions” with Rauner’s office during the whole closure process.
“I’m going to continue talking to them,” he said. “We need to have a plan to reopen the museum. I do believe there is a commitment from the governor’s office to reopen the museum once we have a budget. It will be difficult. We’re going to lose some very good employees.”
Not everyone agrees. Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, defended the closure.
“The governor does have to do it,” Brady said. “The Democrats have left him with a multiple billion dollar budget deficit that has to be dealt with. I blame the Democrats with this.”