The Next Chapter

Museum display on the third floor of Sherman Hall, WIU

The Western Illinois Museum is embarking on a new chapter.  Founded in 1974 on the campus of Western Illinois University, it was given a new home in downtown Macomb, opening its doors in 2002.  Doing what we do best, we are taking a look at our history as we launch a few new projects in the coming year. 


How’d we get here?
In 2001 the building located at 201 South Lafayette Street was acquired with the intent of housing the museum with its collection, and the offices of the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (MACVB) and its visitor center.  The cost of the building was $155,000 which was shared equally by The City of Macomb, a grant from the Illinois State Tourism Fund, and the joint fundraising efforts of the Western Illinois Museum and MACVB.  The partnership was based on a belief that the museum would provide an attraction for the MACVB to market and for the community to enjoy.

201 South Lafayette Street building before the renovation

In June of 2001, the MACVB under the direction of Katherine Walker received an Experience Illinois low-interest loan for $236,000 from the State of Illinois.  The loan supplied the much-needed funds to renovate the building, transforming an automobile garage into a fitting home for the museum, and suitable offices for the MACVB. Their pledge to allocate part of the bed tax to guarantee the loan was a crucial part of acquiring the funds.  In November of 2018, the loan will be paid off.  


What can be learned

Looking back it is clear that the vision of the MACVB, the City of Macomb, and the Western Illinois museum created a relationship that benefited the community.  We saw the value of the museum as an economic driver for the

Artifacts in the storage area of the 201 South Lafayette Street building

region.  At the time of purchase, the building was on the verge of being damaged beyond saving. Work to foster investments from individuals, grants from the state, and funds from the city all added up, ensuring a historic and highly visible building could be repurposed for a broader use. The resulting partnership and ongoing relationship between the partners have created a vibrant and well-used community center where exhibits, meetings, and programs connect people. The accomplishments of this partnership deserve to be celebrated. 


The next chapter

The City of Macomb has offered to transfer the ownership of the building to the Western Illinois Museum once the note has been paid later this year. The museum’s Board of Directors is evaluating this offer to ensure it is the best next step for the museum.  It is clear that the museum owes much to the support and vision of the MACVB and the City of Macomb.

Macomb school children visiting an exhibit

In the next chapter, the museum’s directors and staff look forward to continuing this constructive relationship with both the MACVB and the City of Macomb.  This experience provides a good example. We will continue to work to foster other partnerships that can create growth opportunities for the region. At the upcoming Annual Meeting, which will be held on March 22nd, the museum’s directors will discuss the with members the building issue and other projects that are part of the next chapter.   

For more information about the museum, visit our GuideStar page or read our 2016-17 Annual Report.