First and Only Comprehensive Illinois Bicentennial Exhibition Opens February 3 at Peoria Riverfront
Event: “Celebrate Illinois: 200 Years in the Land of Lincoln” bicentennial exhibition
Date & Time: Opens Sat., Feb. 3, 10 a.m. (runs through June 3)
Location: Peoria Riverfront Museum · 222 S.W. Washington St. · Peoria, Ill.
Press conference & exhibition walkthrough: Fri., Feb. 2, 10 a.m. with Peoria Riverfront Museum CEO John Morris, museum curators and Illinois Bicentennial Commission Executive Director Stuart Layne
The first and only comprehensive exhibition celebrating the Illinois bicentennial opens to the public Feb. 3 at Peoria Riverfront Museum. “Celebrate Illinois: 200 Years in the Land of Lincoln,” presents the story of the state’s past to present as told through more than 240 historic objects and the narratives of notable Illinoisans, including four U.S. presidents, abolitionists and reformers, farmers and pioneers, inventors and scientists, artists and authors, athletes and celebrities, veterans, Native Americans and immigrants.
One of the cufflinks that President Abraham Lincoln was wearing the night he was assassinated, on loan from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, is among the rare and significant pieces on display. Also in the exhibit are the White House desk and chair at which Lincoln purportedly wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, on loan from the Chicago Historical Society and a very rare Lincoln inaugural ball ticket on loan from Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
‘“Celebrate Illinois’ is being curated around the concept that objects tell stories and behind each object is a person, and that person has a unique story to tell – a personal insight into the history of Illinois,” said museum CEO John Morris.
Artifacts from three other U.S. presidents include a belt buckle from Ulysses S. Grant’s Galena home, Ronald Reagan’s Eureka College diploma and 1957 Golden Globe Award and a pen used by President Barack Obama to sign his first executive order.
A 1995 World Series championship hat signed by Peoria native Jim Thome, inducted this year into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will be on display alongside Eureka native Ben Zobrist’s batting helmet and gloves worn during the World Series MVP’s famous Game 7 10th inning hit that led to a Cubs victory.
Celebrated Illinois athletes Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Ernie Banks, Curley “Boo” Johnson and Peoria native and NBA point guard Shaun Livingston are featured.
John Deere's original plow, invented in 1837 for breaking the sticky prairie soil and Caterpillar’s first diesel engine, “Old Betsy,” made in 1930 are displayed – both on loan from the Smithsonian Institution.
Riverfront Museum curators have been working for more than a year to secure the objects on loan from more than 40 organizations and individuals around the state and country, as well as sourcing items from the museum’s own collections.
“I hope visitors take away an interest and pride in the state’s history. You really start to see how many amazing individuals have lived and worked here who’ve made a positive lasting impact,” said exhibition curator Lottie Phillips. “There is truly something in this exhibition for everyone.”
Visitors will see Illinois artifacts from Chicago-born author Ernest Hemingway, architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe, comedian and Peoria native Richard Pryor, Peorians Betty Friedan and Susan G. Komen, nuclear scientist Enrico Fermi, poets Vachel Lindsay from Springfield and Galesburg native Carl Sandburg, U.S. astronaut and Pekin native Scott Altman, sculptor and Elwood native Lorado Taft, the pioneering Funk family, Galesburg abolitionists behind the first Illinois Underground Railroad, Ferris Wheel inventor and Galesburg native George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. and Bishop Hill painter Olaf Krans, and U.S. Senator and Civil Rights leader Everett Dirksen from Pekin.
Artifacts in the exhibition include those on loan from: National Park Service and Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Chicago Historical Society, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Illinois State Museum, Jane Addams-Hull House Museum, Knox College Archives and Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Carl Sandburg Historic Home, Eureka College, Elmhurst College, Dirksen Congressional Center, Bradley University Archives, McHenry County Historical Society, Galena History Museum, General John A. Logan Museum, Jane Addams-Hull House Museum, St. Claire County Historical Museum, Western Illinois Museum, Ray LaHood, Nancy Brinker, Carl Soderstrom and the Zobrist Family.
Earlier this fall, the museum installed the 31-ft. bronze Lincoln sculpture, “Return Visit,” facing the Illinois River, with the assistance of local businesses and individuals, to usher in the Illinois Bicentennial.
Riverfront Museum is an official partner to the Illinois Bicentennial Commission and the exhibition is an officially sanctioned program. Museum board member Dr. Timothy Cundiff is representing the Commission locally.
A slate of bicentennial programming will be held at the museum in conjunction with the exhibition, beginning with Celebrate Illinois Family Day, Feb. 3, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (free with admission and to members). Programming will include an Illinois Classic Film series featuring “The Blues Brothers” (April 5), “The Breakfast Club” (April 12), “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (April 19) and “Sixteen Candles” (April 26).
“Celebrate Illinois: 200 Years in the Land of Lincoln” is presented by Prairie Home Alliance and sponsored by the Peoria Journal Star, WMBD 1470 radio, the Visionary Society and Tom and Lois Mayer.
The exhibition is included with standard museum admission - $11 adults, $10 seniors (60+), $9 youth (3-17). For more information or tickets call 309.686.7000 or visit RiverfrontMuseum.org.
Exhibition link: http://www.peoriariverfrontmuseum.org/exhibits-collections/exhibits/celebrate-illinois-200-years-in-the-land-of-lincoln. Illinois Bicentennial Commission site: illinois200.com
Peoria Riverfront Museum is a privately funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit museum of art, science, history and achievement overlooking the Illinois River. The AAM-accredited, Smithsonian-affiliated museum – the only multidisciplinary museum of its kind in the nation – features international exhibitions, interactive galleries, a dome planetarium, giant screen theater and robust programming designed to provide inspirational, hands-on educational experiences to visitors of all ages. The museum’s “Every Student Initiative,” created in partnership with Peoria Public Schools curricula, provides an annual museum experience for all area K-8 students. The mission of the museum’s Board of Directors and staff is to inspire lifelong learning for all – connecting art, history, science and achievement through collections, exhibitions and programs. For more information visit RiverfrontMuseum.org.