PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 22, No. 7, Oct. 3, 2002
More than five years after the groundbreaking ceremony, the William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum opened Sept. 26 in its new location at 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana, just east of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
The 53,000 square-feet building has five permanent galleries representing different world cultures: Africa, the ancient Mediterranean, Europe, the Americas, and Asia and Oceania.
The sixth gallery exhibits temporary displays that change every six months as well as collections from the universitys Museum of Natural History, a division of the Spurlock Museum.
Visitors enter the museum through a stunning atrial gallery where a sweeping grand staircase and two-story windows rise to the
second-floor balcony. Three monoliths in the core gallery introduce the museums leitmotif of body, mind and spirit, universal human elements whose cultural variations are explored throughout the museums exhibits.
Significant artifacts include the museums collection of cuneiform tablets, which are 5,000 years old, and its collection of Amazonian bark cloth, the largest such collection in the United States.
An artifact that kindles fascination among children and adults is the museums human mummy, dated back to 50-150 CE, that lies in state near the back of the Africa and West Asia gallery. An Egyptologist consulted with museum staff to ensure that the mummy was displayed reverently and in accordance with cultural doctrine.
A teepee dominates the Americas gallery, which displays the museums seminal collection of Plains Indian cultural materials, donated by Reginald and Gladys Läubin, world-renowned experts on American Indian culture. The Läubins, neither of whom were American Indians, were adopted by One Bull, the nephew of Sioux Chief Sitting Bull.
Museum visitors can expand upon what they have learned during their tours at the Rowe Multipurpose Learning Center using educational modules on the centers computers. UI staff members and educators also can borrow compact discs, videos, books or objects from the museums educational resource center.
The museum also has an auditorium with seating for approximately 200, providing a stage for scholarly lectures, storytellers and other performers.
Four culturally based gardens, including a Japanese rock and sand garden and a medicinal herb garden, surround the building.
Formerly called the World Heritage Museum, the museum was renamed the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures in honor of donors William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock of Indianapolis, who bequeathed approximately $8.5 million to the university in 1990 for establishing a museum on the Urbana campus.
The museum had outgrown its space on the fourth floor of Lincoln Hall, and the obscure location with its lack of parking had impeded visitors. The new building, near the universitys eastern gateway, offers ample parking and easy access from Lincoln Avenue as well as professional amenities such as storage space and climate controls to help preserve its more delicate treasures.
Reopening the museum, which had been closed since May 1998, was a challenging process requiring more than a name change and a move eastward across the Quad.
"Basically, what we have done in the past four-and-a-half years, some museums take decades to do or they do separately over several years," said Kim Sheahan, special events coordinator and assistant director of education.
Before packing the museums 45,000 artifacts for the move from Lincoln Hall to the new building, staff inventoried them and painstakingly re-catalogued every detail in the museums database, verifying data such as weights and measures, identifying descriptors, research data and donor information. The museums exhaustive database contains a minimum of 150 bits of information about each object.
The museums staff also worked with the project architects to design the new building and with the collections curators to select almost 2,000 artifacts for exhibition and write the accompanying 1,400 informational labels. Museum staff also created 700 images to supplement the displays.
During the time the museum was closed for the move, staff sustained the museums educational mission through outreach activities, including presentations at civic groups, booths at local festivals and special events.
With the museums collections safely ensconced in the new building, director Douglas Brewer and his staff are beginning the two-year process of establishing programs, policies and procedures that will earn the Spurlock Museum accreditation by the American Association of Museums. Accreditation would make eminent traveling exhibits available to the museum for temporary display.
Spurlock Museum opens
Visitors learn about world history and cultures
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
News Bureau, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
507 E. Green St., Suite 345, Champaign, Illinois 61820
Telephone 217 333-1085, Fax 217 244-0161