By Laurent Pernot, U of I at Chicago
Maybe it was the use of "Smithsonian" and "UIUC" in the same sentence or perhaps it was the "half now, half later" financial arrangement, but at least one trustee was uneasy about the proposed $8.6 million Spurlock Museum in Urbana. Trustees selected an architect and a museum exhibit consultant during their meeting in Chicago last week.
The new 36,000 square-foot museum will be built at the southeast corner of California and Gregory and replace the World Heritage Museum now in Lincoln Hall. The facility will hold exhibit galleries, public areas, a museum store, administrative offices and support space.
The discussion of the item - which actually only entailed selecting an architect and an engineer for the project - was all but routine until Robert Todd, associate vice president for administration and human resources, mentioned the new museum could cost as much to curate as it will to build.
"You'll have a building with exhibit space and you'll have potential to finish it off the way you'd like," said Todd, adding that the Smithsonian Institution was one of the models to be followed for the new museum.
Trustee William Engelbrecht (R-Henry) then wondered whether the university could be left with an unfinished museum since "it could be a number of years before those additional funds are raised."
After Todd noted that none of the original $8.6 million would come from the state or the university, UIUC Chancellor Michael Aiken said "lots of people are interested in the project and we're confident we could raise the necessary funds over time."
A previous project presented to the trustees two years ago was scrapped because its cost exceeded original estimates, Aiken said.
"We decided to scale back the project and stay within the original scope [of $8-8.5 million] and wait to see if additional money could be raised," he said. "But if we waited any longer, we would lose the money we already have because the heirs to the donor [the Spurlock family of Indiana] are not happy it has taken this long" to get the project under way.
The architectural firm selected is Nagle Hatray Danker Kagan McKay of Chicago, which was responsible for the construction of the Walker Museum at the University of Chicago and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo studios.
The firm of Donovan and Green of New York City will be employed as museum exhibit consultant; it is in charge of this year's Olympic Committee exhibit and collaborates regularly with the Smithsonian Institution.
Future of UIS Also discussed at the trustees meeting was the future of the UI's Springfield campus. UIS will draw on its location in the state capitol and its tradition as a small institution to bill itself as a small liberal arts college at a bargain price.
A revised curriculum will emphasize traditional liberal arts fields and public affairs studies, said Wayne Penn, UIS vice chancellor.
"We can't be all things to all people," Penn told the UI trustees at their meeting in Chicago last week.
"We'll offer an alternative for students who now go to state universities but would like a smaller campus."
The university, formerly Sangamon State University, plans to offer a four-year undergraduate program for the first time, Penn said in presenting the interim report of the UIS Development Planning Committee.
At the heart of the university's public affairs mission is a proposed Ph.D. in public affairs, which has the backing of the Illinois Board of Higher Education and would complement UIC's new Ph.D. in public administration.
"The doctoral degree in public affairs will be the capstone of our curriculum," said Penn.
UIS will only offer master's programs with clear links to professional fields - none that are merely a preparation for doctorates.
"Teaching, research and public service will all be part of our mission, but teaching will be UIS's primary emphasis," Penn said.
The planning committee supported offering UIUC's master's of social work degree at UIS. The Springfield campus already grants a bachelor's of social work and a master of arts in child, family and community services.
Other recommendations included eliminating the bachelor's in economics, developing a concentration in finance, doing away with the applied statistics concentration in mathematics and offering a master's degree in nursing from UIC at UIS, with the latter's faculty participating in the curriculum.
The trustees started revamping UIS course offerings by voting to discontinue the master of arts degree in psychology, at the request of the UIS psychology department and the planning committee.