Spurlock Museum nears century mark

Spurlock Museum nears century mark


In 1911 the University of Illinois Board of Trustees formally established the Classical Museum and the European Culture Museum.

Nearly 100 years later, what began on the fourth floor of Lincoln Hall is now an accredited museum of 53,000 square feet on campus.

The Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., U, contains more than 40,000 artifacts, from Stone Age figurines to coins from the Ottoman Empire and Chinese wood carvings to baskets from the Philippines.

Next year it celebrates its centennial, and a variety of events are planned to mark the occasion. This fall and all next year the museum has several exhibits, film screenings, storytelling events and fairs worth checking out.

During the museum’s early years, pieces such as a leaf of the Gutenberg Bible, papyrus fragments from an ancient Greece colony and suits of armor were acquired. Over the decades its collection grew to include other areas of the world, including artifacts from sub-Saharan Africa, and the museum’s name eventually became the World Heritage Museum.

Thanks to a donation from the Spurlock family, the collections were able to move into a freestanding building on the U I campus. The new building, with its new name, opened in 2002.

The museum, which recently received accreditation from the American Association of Museums, has five different galleries: Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, and Africa; Ancient Greece and Rome; East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania; Europe; and American Indian Cultures of North and South America.

Recent acquisitions have included a cuneiform tablet from west Asia and Samurai armor from Japan.
The centennial exhibit will run from Feb. 20, 2011, through Jan. 8, 2012.

“Many museums started out as cabinets of curiosities, by people collecting artifacts,” said Kim Sheahan, assistant director of education at the museum.

As part of its centennial celebration, the museum will have a “people wall” that shares stories about those who have donated artifacts to the Spurlock over the years.

Only about 4 percent to 5 percent of the museum’s collection is on display, so museum staff are planning on bringing out artifacts that were favorites on view in the World Heritage Museum or have never been on display. About 80 percent of the museum’s collection are donations.

The goal is for visitors to see the museum in familiar and in new ways, Sheahan said.

Next summer, on July 9, there will be a “Happy Birthday Spurlock Museum,” party, celebrated alongside the Krannert Art Museum which will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Although the centennial exhibition does not start for several more months, people are invited to share memories about the museum at www.spurlock.illinois.edu.

Additional events are planned and will be included on the calendar of events on the museum’s website.

This fall, the museum will have a special exhibit about AIDS in Africa. “Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education and AIDS in South Africa” runs from Aug. 17, 2010, through Jan. 9, 2011. It highlights the work of Siyazama, an arts education project that uses traditional crafts to boost AIDS awareness. An AIDS resource fair will be held on Saturday, Dec. 4, at the museum.

Also this fall the Spurlock, along with the Asian Educational Media Service at the UI’s Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies, will hold a series of film screenings and discussions open to the public. The films will be shown in the Knight Auditorium in the museum. All are free and begin at 7 p.m. Films will be shown on Sept. 7, Oct. 5, Nov. 2, Dec. 7, 2010, and Feb. 1, March 1, April 5 and May 3, 2011.

On Oct. 30 at the museum, local storytellers Dan Keding, Kathe Brinkmann and Kim Sheahan and others will present ghost stories to visitors. Stories for children will be at 2 p.m. and for adults at 7:30 p.m.

The museum is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is free, although there is a suggested donation of $3.

The Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., U, can be reached at 333-2360 or www.spurlock.illinois.edu.

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