Illinois State Museum, Springfield

Hot Science: The Science of Extinction

The elephant in the room is that one day, if we aren’t careful, the elephant will never be in the room again. Extinction is forever – at least for now. A statuesque and imagination-provoking example of this is the mastodon story presented in the new Hot Science exhibit at the Illinois State Museum. Although the ultimate reason for the demise of these animals has been debated for decades, answers to extinction questions are no longer trivial or academic given the rapid pace of climate change and our great concern for threatened and endangered species.

Spectrum: Selections from Fine and Decorative Arts

The Spectrum exhibition features a sampling of the broad range of art and artifacts found in the Illinois State Museum’s collections of fine and decorative art. The works selected by ISM curators bear witness to the rich cultural history of Illinois since it became a state in 1818. Paintings, textiles, sculpture, works on paper, and other objects represent a variety of media and subject matter. Some are recent acquisitions and others are rarely seen gems, such as a grouping of paintings that started the Illinois State Museum’s fine art collection back in 1928.

Memories

The Museum's history is celebrated with a special exhibit, Museum Memories. Visitors will be able to see a selection of popular past exhibitions, including a horse skeleton exhibit which was originally on view when the Museum was housed in the Centennial Building, and the "Tornado Trees" recovered after the devastating Tri-State tornado in 1925.

The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum

The Play Museum is a free children's area at the Illinois State Museum-Springfield. Load a jeep; crawl through a cave; dig for fossils; put together a baby mastodont puzzle; frame art; explore collections of fossils, insects, artifacts; and toys; and play museum! The Play Museum is designed for children ages 3-10 and their families. 

Hours are Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. and Sunday 1:00 to 4:30 p.m.

  • No food, beverages, gum or candy are allowed in the Play Museum.
  • Please park your strollers outside the Play Museum.
  • The Museum does not have food or eating facilities.
  • All restrooms are accessible and include changing tables.
  • Children must be accompanied by a caregiver over 16 years old.
The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum at ISM Springfield.
  • The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum at ISM Springfield.
  • The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum at ISM Springfield.
  • The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum at ISM Springfield.
  • The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum at ISM Springfield.
  • The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum at ISM Springfield.
  • The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum at ISM Springfield.
The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum at ISM Springfield.

Changes: Dynamic Illinois Environments

Did you know that Illinois was once located south of the Equator? Or that Illinois was once a tropical sea teeming with marine life? Ever wonder what life was like in Illinois millions of years ago? Changes: Dynamic Illinois Environments allows visitors to travel into the past to see how Illinois has changed and how it continues to change today. A walk through the Changes exhibit is not just a learning experience; it's an adventure through 500 million years of environmental change in Illinois. Become a scientist at the Changes Institute and travel through time, from the beginning of life on Earth to an era when American mastodonts roamed the Illinois landscape to the days of the first European explorers.

At Changes visitors will see, hear, and touch Illinois' natural history through engaging hands-on interactive displays, audio and video effects, thousands of authentic fossils, and more. Marvel at all the strange and intriguing species that once inhabited Illinois through a multitude of life-size dioramas. Touch a beaver's fur or the skull of a giant short-faced bear. Use your official Changes Institute membership card to receive weather reports from millions of years ago or hear the first-hand account of a European traveler journeying up the Illinois River. Travel through a mine, a glacier tunnel, and a cave. Push buttons to light up different species on display and pull out the illuminated drawers to test your own scientific knowledge and skills. Learn how human actions affect the environment and gain a deeper understanding of how evolution has affected life on earth since the beginning of time. People of all ages can see the changes for themselves as they travel through time and Illinois' ever-changing environments.

Duck Decoys from the ISM Changes Exhibit
  • Duck Decoys from the ISM Changes Exhibit
  • Short-Faced Bear Diorama from ISM Springfield Changes Exhibit
  • Musk Ox Diorama from ISM Springfield Changes Exhibit
  • Mastadon Skeleton Exhibit from ISM Springfield Changes Exhibit
  • Ancient Sea Exhibit from ISM Springfield Changes Exhibit
  • ISM Springfield Changes Exhibit
ISM Changes Exhibit

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