March 22, 2004

University Museum to celebrate 130th anniversary

by Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. - University Museum Director Dona Bachman knows parties beg you to break out the finery.

She and her staff are doing just that - in anticipation of the museum's upcoming 130th Anniversary party. 

Festivities will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 2, at the museum in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Faner Hall. All are welcome. Admission is free.

In addition to cake, visitors will find two new gallery spaces recently designed to better showcase little-seen treasures from the museum's extensive permanent collection. The collection encompasses works in the arts, humanities and sciences.

It's a large collection - now numbering 55,000 pieces - and it deserves to be seen," says an energetic Bachman, who just completed her first year as the museum's director and has worked feverishly overseeing its remodeling and spicing up its offerings.

The museum, opened in 1874, started out in the first Old Main building. Since then, it has called 11 other buildings home. In 1974, it moved into its present location in Faner Hall.

Here's a sneak preview of some of the treasures and refurbishments to be unveiled at the anniversary celebration:


  • A new Hall of Art is devoted solely to showcasing art works from the permanent collection. William Snyder is curator of its inaugural exhibit - 12 notable19th and 20th Century paintings flanked by a pair of sculptures.



Among the works is a stunning, nearly life-size oil painting of Mark Twain - which survived a fire and a flood - "The Seamstress" by Jacob Lawrence, Hudson Valley landscapes, and works by such major figures as Milton Avery and Joseph Albers.


New exhibits will go up every six months or so.

  • The Fraunfelter Gallery of Science will reopen in a new, larger and more "visitor-friendly" space. Long a children's favorite, this gallery will feature a new, large rock wall studded with fossils as well as engaging displays and hands-on activities on dinosaurs and fossils.


In addition, it will feature several brand new dioramas depicting the region's early Native American inhabitants. Robert DeHoet, museum education coordinator, and students in his museum studies class are constructing the 3-D pieces.


  • For the first time in decades, visitors will be able to see recently restored miniature models of period furniture, early local buildings and a variety of vehicles created for the museum by Works Progress Administration artists in the 1930s. The historically accurate gems will be displayed in a spot reserved for Southern Illinois exhibits.

Museum volunteer and master model builder Paul McCroy of Carbondale readied the delicate miniatures for their upcoming debut, giving them a good cleaning and making painstaking repairs.

  • The exhibit "Women in Clay: The Potters of La Chamba, Columbia" will open. Photographs and anthropological field notes will provide an insider's view of indigenous peasant women and the age-old process of crafting exceptional and often enormous ceramic pots, which complete the display.

Beginning in 1969, anthropologist Laurence Kruckman, an SIUC alumnus, collaborated with a ceramics artist and a late photographer to document life and work in the remote Columbian village. Kruckman, an anthropology professor at Indiana University in Pennsylvania, presented to the museum more than 100 of the handcrafted ceramic pots along with pictures and research on the Mestizo people who for hundreds of years have made and traded these vessels. 

This is a major donation and we're very lucky to become its stewards," Bachman says. "We hope Professor Kruckman will be able to join us on this special occasion."

  • Architectural models of a proposed Visual and Performing Arts Center - which could one day house the museum and host theater and musical performances on campus - will also be on display. Seniors in the Architecture 452 class are creating the designs.

Expanding cultural outreach programs is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.