Illinois State Museum

Partner Address: 

502 South Spring Springfield, IL

City, State, Zip: 

Springfield, IL

Partner Phone: 

(217) 782-7386

Edward Richardson Jr., Self Portrait

Image of Oil painting on canvas, Edward Richardson Jr., self-portrait
Edward Richardson Jr. worked as an artist in Springfield, Illinois, from 1850 until his death in 1858 at the age of 31. He advertised himself in the local newspaper as a portrait artist and decorative painter.

Tornado

Image of Robert Larson painting, Tornado.
Illinois' predominately flat landscape leaves us with ample sky to contemplate, making us all forecasters of coming storms. Nothing is more indicative of the powerful and unpredictable forces of weather than tornadoes, a not uncommon sight on our horizons.

The Study of Oology

Image of Bird Egg Collection
 
Field guide to common birds: Top row l to r: American goldfinch, brown thrasher, downy woodpecker, gray catbird. Center row: blue jay, Carolina wren, house wren, baltimore oriole. Bottom row: Great crested flyatcher, northern cardinal, American robin, song sparrow.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, before federal protections for all birds were established, egg collecting thrived as a hobby. Collectors bought, sold, and traded eggs with one another. In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was established to stop the commercialization of birds, primarily because market hunting for restaurants and to provide feathers for the hat trade was decimating populations. As egg collecting slowly disappeared in the years following, many collectors gave their collections to museums.

Prairie Insects

Image of Ottoe Skipper
The prairie has its own suite of grasses and wildflowers that make it a unique ecosystem. With the habitat comes the associated insects, birds, reptiles, and amphibians adapted to this sometimes harsh, sometimes beautiful environment.

Prairie Cicada

Image of Prairie Cicada
The Prairie Cicada’s (Megatibicen dorsatus) sound is unique to the tallgrass prairie. Because much of the prairie was converted to farming and other uses before it could be thoroughly studied, we may never know what the cacophony of insect songs sounded like in this distinctive habitat. Many of those insects are now as rare as original prairie remnants. The Prairie Cicada persists in some of those remnants as well as in small railroad prairies.

Locked Antlers

Image of Locked Antlers
The Illinois State Museum was seeking a pair of white-tailed bucks (Odocoileus virginianus) with their antlers locked in combat for a habitat exhibit, when in 1984, two hunters in Pike County happened upon just such a scene. Jerome Martin of Pleasant Hill and Sam Mathews of Riverton encountered these bucks while hunting in the hills near Rockport, an unincorporated town in western Pike County.

White-tailed Deer

Image of White-tailed Deer
White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were once so rare that in the early 1900s, Illinois State Museum curators had to arrange to get specimens from Wisconsin for exhibit. Unregulated shooting, changes in land use and other factors combined to all but eliminate deer from the state by the turn of the last century.

Barn Owl

Image of a Barn Owl
The Barn Owl’s name sounds like it should be found just about everywhere in rural Illinois. The truth is that Barn Owl (Tyto alba) numbers declined so precipitously by the 1960s that they landed on the Illinois list of threatened or endangered species. In recent years, however, the Barn Owl has made a comeback.

Carolina Parakeet

Image of Carolina Parakeet
It’s a story that was disturbingly familiar at the turn of the 20th Century. The Carolina Parakeet once was found in abundance throughout the eastern and Midwestern United States. The parrot with the northern-most distribution, the colorful and noisy Carolina Parakeet was hard to miss when it gathered in large flocks. By the late 19th century it was rare. By the early 20th century it was virtually extinct, with the last known individual dying in captivity in 1918.

Trilobites

Image of a Trilobite
If you think 200 years of statehood is a significant milestone, consider this: trilobites, in one form or another, lived in the seas that once covered Illinois for a span of almost 300 million years. The oldest specimens date to about 500 million years ago, while the last trilobites died out about 200 million years ago. This specimen dates back to the Silurian Period (408-438 million years ago) and was found near Grafton, Illinois.

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