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October 30, 2017

Southern Illinois University Museum Reopening Remains Uncertain

CARBONDALE, ILLINOIS—In a September 2017 speech to the university, Southern Illinois University chancellor Carlo Montemagno announced a reopening of the University Museum by January 1, 2018. Museum staff now say the chancellor’s timeline is unrealistic and the museum is unlikely to opening at the start of next year, Amelia Blakely reports for the Daily Egyptian, the university’s student newspaper. The museum is currently staffed only with student workers and pieces in its 70,000-object permanent collection have been placed in storage or in temporary exhibitions elsewhere on the SIU campus.

Due to university-wide budget cuts necessary to counter a loss in state funding caused by stalemate between Republican Illinois governor Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-majority state General Assembly, the museum was forced to close at the end of June 2017. Alison Erazmus, the University Museum’s curator of exhibits, was let go at the end of the Spring 2017 semester; only one full-time staff member remained after her departure.

In advance of reopening, the museum’s administration has been merged with the university’s library affairs department. The university has committed resources to finding a new exhibitions curator and toward hiring a full-time director, but the positions remain unfilled. John Politz, the university’s dean of library affairs and overseer for the museum, could not confirm a January 1 reopening, placing more likelihood on reopening to the public by summer 2018. Kasey Dann, a former museum student worker said, “We are starting out with nothing. We have no staff.”

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