Illinois Bicentennial and Beyond! : An IC connection
Senior Meghan Ruyle gained hands-on experience installing the exhibit, “Bicentennial and Beyond! The Illinois Legacy Collection,” as an intern for the Illinois State Museum.
In June, the Illinois State Museum celebrated Illinois’s 200th birthday with a public opening of one of its largest and most publicized collections.
For Jacksonville native Meghan Ruyle ’19 the exhibit of rarely seen objects was a chance to gain hands-on experience working alongside museum professionals. The Illinois College senior helped to install “Bicentennial and Beyond! The Illinois Legacy Collection” as one of the first projects she worked on as the art and history intern for the museum.
Hundreds of people attended the opening of the show, which is on display until Feb. 3, 2019. It tells the story of Illinois through objects from a wide range of disciplines including art, anthropology, archaeology, botany, fine and decorative art, geology, history and zoology.
Ruyle, who studies both history and art at IC, also worked at the opening event as a photographer. She said it was rewarding to be a part of such a monumental exhibition and to observe the reactions people had to the collection.
“Much of the time at the event I spent alone, walking amidst the crowds of people with a camera in hand, listening in on conversations from everyone about the pieces in the exhibition,” said Ruyle. “Many people were in awe and fascinated by the information they were being provided.”
Matthew Mogle, assistant professor in art at Illinois College, is proud of the way Ruyle represented the College with her work. He is among those who have visited the exhibition since its opening.
“I highly recommend anyone interested in our local history plan a visit to Springfield before this exhibit closes,” said Mogle. “The interdisciplinary range of the objects is really impressive: art, artifacts and specimens with Illinois connections are all beautifully displayed.”
Ruyle said she gained skills working on every aspect of exhibit installation from transporting historical pieces to managing lighting to digitizing historical items. In addition to her work on the bicentennial project, she worked with the museum’s art department learning industry standard procedures for handling and managing valuable artwork.
Other projects Ruyle worked on during her internship include the Art of Illinois exhibition at the Governor's Mansion, the 1908 Race Riot exhibition at the African American Museum and the education tent at the Illinois State Fair.
“After graduation, I can now imagine myself working for an art museum or art gallery as an art curator. This internship allowed me to understand these specific roles,” she said.
Ruyle believes the professional skills she gained will help set her apart from other students as she prepares to apply for graduate schools this year. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in museum studies and art history.
The internship was part of the IC Explorers program, which receives funding in part through a Cooperative Work Study Grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
For more information about the Illinois State Museum visit www.illinoisstatemuseum.org.