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Thursday, May 28, 2015 07:55 am

Historic change

 The SJ-R’s Doug Finke informs us that Mr. Madigan has had a change of mind, if not of heart, about the best way to organize the State of Illinois’ historic preservation efforts. 

Good. The speaker originally sought to strip the Lincoln Presidential museum from the state’s Historic Preservation Agency, and handed the IHPA to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which presumably run it out of its tourism promotion office. 

The plan was, as I noted in a blog post on the proposal, unique in Illinois annals in being perfect in its stupidity. Might as well administer the General Assembly under DCEO's tourism operation, since the legislature, like history, also draws visitors to Springfield. 

Under terms of a bill introduced by Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, and approved by the House Executive Committee, IHPA would survive as a stand-alone agency, indeed its brief would be enlarged to include administration of the Illinois State Museum and Dickson Mounds Museum, which now enjoy the feeble protection of a beleaguered Department of Natural Resources.

There are things to like in the new plan. The state museum began like as a natural history museum, to be sure, but these days we have a more expansive notion of what history is. Geology – which explains the origins of our soils and coal, among other things – and natural history – the basis for the Indian economy – is central to Illinois' human history too. The Dickson Mounds Museum from the start was devoted to anthropology (meaning prehistorical history) and thus never made sense at DNR.

The new scheme would be improved by moving the old state historical library to the enlarged IHPA as well. Were that done, Illinois would finally have the Department of History that it deserves, devoted not only to preservation but to research and education. One hopes that Madigan & Co., having come to their senses about IHPA, makes that change as well. 


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Friday Oct. 18th