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Grants could drop for the unaccredited University Museum

Alison+Erazmus%2C+the+university%27s+curator+of+exhibits%2C+places+a+hat+inside+a+display+case+Wednesday%2C+Jan.+18%2C+2017%2C+in+the+University+Museum.+%28Bill+Lukitsch+%7C+%40lukitsbill%29+
Alison Erazmus, the university's curator of exhibits, places a hat inside a display case Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in the University Museum. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

Alison Erazmus, the university's curator of exhibits, places a hat inside a display case Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in the University Museum. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

Alison Erazmus, the university's curator of exhibits, places a hat inside a display case Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in the University Museum. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

By Olivia Spiers

The University Museum could lose multiple grants after it was stripped of its accreditation in February as a result of recent staffing and budget cuts.

A representative of the American Alliance of Museums visited SIU in February to re-evaluate the museum’s 40-year-long accreditation status. The representative determined it could not keep up the high standards of accreditation, the museum’s director said Thursday.

Chris Walls, who was appointed interim director in January after Dona Bachman’s retirement, said The American Alliance of Museums was troubled with the lack of staff and extensive budget cuts SIU’s museum had faced in recent years. The museum’s two full-time workers are in charge of more than 70,000 artifacts.

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“The entire university system has failed the museum,” Walls said. “But we will still make it.”

While the museum will remain open, it may be unable to qualify for up to $100,000 in grants because of the status change, Walls said. If the museum loses that grant funding, its staff will have to raise the difference.

Walls said he is unsure how that could happen.

“The museum was never meant to be self-supporting,” he said. “We have no points that could bring in revenue, but this is forcing us to try.”

Walls said the museum plans to re-apply for accreditation. To regain the status, however, he said the museum will need to hire at least four more full-time employees.

“We will be accredited again, no question about it,” Walls said.

Susannah Munson, the museum’s curator who oversees artifact storage, said the museum staff was disappointed with the loss of accreditation, but remains confident because the museum has “remained resilient through the trying times.”

The museum, which has been housed in Faner Hall since 1974, was without a director for the first time since it opened in 1874 when Bachman was not replaced after she retired in December following her 16-year tenure.

The museum lost three full-time employees in 2015 as a result of budget cuts.

Alison Erazmus, the museum’s curator of exhibits, said the staff was not surprised by the loss of accreditation as they have watched various state museums lose accreditation or close since the budget impasse began in July 2015.

While the staff is discouraged, Erazmus said, it will continue to plan exhibits that meet the “sky-high standards of accreditation.”

“We have an obligation to serve the community, regardless of accreditation,” she said.

Staff writer Olivia Spiers can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_spierso.

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