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Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016 10:51 am

Bourland tapped to oversee historic sites

Transferred from ALPLM post

Dave Bourland, exhibits manager at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, has been transferred to a new post as director of historic sites for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

He began his new duties on Dec. 16, according to Chris Wills, IHPA spokesman. The IHPA oversees 56 historic sites throughout the state, including the Dana-Thomas House, Lincoln’s Tomb, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Old State Capitol, the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office and the Vachel Lindsay Home in Springfield.

Bourland, who held few if any qualifications listed in the written job description for exhibits manager at the museum (“ALPLM hire has connections,” July 2, 2015), has a checkered past as a historic preservationist.

In 1992, Bourland acquired the Clayville Historic Site, then called the Clayville Rural Life Center, from Sangamon State University, now called University of Illinois Springfield. Under Bourland’s ownership, the site deteriorated to the point that it was shuttered. Ten years ago, buildings were crumbling, weeds were overgrown and the property was strewn with trash. In 2007, the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois declared the landmark near Pleasant Plains one of the state’s 10 most endangered historic sites.

In 2009, the Pleasant Plains Historical Society, a nonprofit group, acquired the 13-acre property from Bourland and resurrected it, with volunteers mowing grass, picking up trash and fixing buildings that include a former tavern built in 1824 that is believed to be the oldest brick building in Sangamon County.

“We keep finding antiques,” said Jim Verkuilen, mayor of Pleasant Plains and a founder of the nonprofit group, in 2009 (“Clayville’s back on track,” Sept. 3, 2009). “We underestimated how much would be in here that we could save.”

“You know the deal.”

The site has been largely restored, thanks in part to $400,000 in state grants, and now hosts weddings and other events in addition to festivals.

Before being hired as ALPLM exhibits manager in 2015, Bourland was curator of the governor’s mansion, which is now undergoing extensive renovations after falling into disrepair. Repairs began in earnest after Bourland was hired by ALPLM last year. Prior to being hired by the state, Bourland had been employed by the Illinois Executive Mansion Association, a private nonprofit group.

Ryan Prehn had been head of historic sites for IHPA prior to Bourland taking the job last week. Wills said that Prehn has been promoted to IHPA deputy director, a post he had held in addition to being head of historic sites. The job of ALPLM exhibits director is now vacant, Wills said.

Bourland declined comment.

“I can’t talk to reporters,” he said. “You know the deal.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.


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