Illinois State Museum Mission

The Illinois State Museum promotes discovery, lifelong learning, and stewardship of the natural and cultural heritage of Illinois.  The Museum integrates its original research and diverse collections to advance knowledge and create thought-provoking exhibitions and educational programs and resources.  These offerings engage people of all ages in their own discovery and lifelong learning about the natural and cultural heritage of Illinois and its place within the world. The Museum promotes stewardship of this heritage to improve quality of life and ensure a sustainable future.


The Illinois State Museum aspires to be a widely valued institution that enriches people's lives through discovery and learning about the natural and cultural heritage of Illinois and the world. The Museum practices the highest professional standards in its work and improves its offerings through innovative approaches to research, collections, exhibitions, and educational offerings. It is dedicated to helping people become aware and respectful of their natural and cultural heritage to guide relationships with natural and cultural resources for sustainability and best quality of life.


During an age in which Illinois and its citizenry are continually confronted with change and the prospect of new challenges to sustaining their lives, it is essential that a definitive source of information on Illinois be continually expanded and sustained for the future. While other institutions are charged with preserving written records and publications, the Illinois State Museum has the responsibility of preserving and maintaining a tangible record of the state's land, life, people, and art, through the objects that it collects and studies, and the responsibility to engage society in discovery and stewardship of Illinois' natural and cultural heritage through exhibits, educational programs, and other educational offerings such as publications and online exhibitions and databases.  This process is guided by two principles:

  • The Museum's programs—art, art history, cultural history, anthropology, natural history, and earth sciences—shall integrate across disciplines and fields of knowledge in order to offer holistic perspectives of natural and cultural expressions and the complex, systemic interactions within and between aspects of the natural and cultural world.

  • The core activities of Museum are research, collecting, curating, exhibition, and education. The activities are interdependent and are linked by a progressive flow of information from research and collection to the dissemination of knowledge. The following principles guide the core activities:

Research advances the understanding of the nature of and interplay between the natural and cultural worlds with emphasis on our unique capacities in historical studies of climate, landscapes, biota, and human endeavor.

Collecting focuses on materials, objects, and information that represent the State's most significant and natural treasures and foster a better understanding and appreciation of the character and diversity of Illinois.

Curatorial efforts continue to upgrade collections to insure their best preservation and accessibility.

Exhibition of collections focuses on themes that integrate information and contemporary concepts across disciplines and that foster a better understanding and appreciation of Illinois and its people, thus providing learning opportunities for diverse audiences.

Educational programs use the Illinois State Museum's collections, exhibits, data, and information to provide learning experiences for the public, both within and beyond Museum venues.

Educational programs employ both traditional approaches and innovative technologies to target specific audiences as well as to reach a broad constituency.

Educational and exhibition programs are engaging and inviting to the public.

All of the Museum's programs are in some degree relevant and vital to the welfare of the host communities and contribute to sustainability and best quality of life.

Map of Illinois showing locations of ISM facilities.The Illinois State Museum is a system of museums and galleries serving the people of Illinois. The Museums foster an appreciation of the living world, introduce the art of Illinois, open windows to education, and protect irreplaceable state treasures. The ISM mission is fulfilled through collecting, research, exhibits, publications, and interpretive programs that enhance educational experiences, aesthetic values, and in general, the quality of life.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Logo
The Illinois State Museum is a division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

American Alliance of Museums Accredited Museum Logo
The Illinois State Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.