Fine and Decorative Art Collections

Fine Arts
The Museum's collection of fine arts documents the progression and history of art in Illinois. It is the only such public collection in Illinois. Especially significant collections include: the 20th-century paintings (relating to Illinois); the Illinois Works Progress Administrationcollection of paintings, prints, and sculpture; the nineteenth-century folk art collection; and the historical and contemporary Illinois photograph collections, including the Frank Sadorus Collection and photographs of Nathan Lerner.

Decorative Arts
The Museum's decorative arts collections contain more than 14,000 aesthetic and historical objects that enhance understanding of life in Illinois. The collection focuses on objects of historical and cultural importance that were made in Illinois. They primarily document domestic life and include food service tools and equipment, food processing tools, furniture, household accessories, bedding, lighting devices, phonographs and recordings, clocks, window and floor coverings, toys and games, clothing, personal gear, and personal adornment. In addition, the collection includes armaments, small numbers of tools (farm and woodworking), paperweights, and documentary artifacts. Especially important collections include quilts, coverlets, the Orozco dolls, images of life on the Illinois River, Illinois ceramics (manufactured when Illinois was the second largest clay producing state); and waterfowl decoys (which is one of the best, representing the work of carvers along the Mississippi Flyway).

How to Donate to the Decorative Arts and History Collection
The Museum'sThe Illinois State Museum maintains an extensive collection of historic artifacts and decorative arts objects. Our goal is to collect things that help us better understand life in Illinois; therefore we seek items made or used in Illinois, made by someone with an Illinois connection, or items with a great Illinois story to them. Before an item is accepted into our collections, it is carefully reviewed by members of our curatorial staff. Because it is expensive to store, maintain, care for, and provide access for objects, and because our storage space is limited, we must be very selective about what we accept into the collections. Click here for more information about making a donation.

Illinois State Museum: Fine Art Collection

Art Collections Online

Amish Quilt Gallery
You can learn about the history of quilts created by Illinois Amish women of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The images and information are from the Museum publication Illinois Amish Quilts: Sharing Threads of Tradition, which can be purchased from the Museum by consulting the Publications Web page or telephoning the Museum.

Bevier Historic Dress Collection
Choice in clothing demonstrates social class, identity, individual aspirations, as well as available technologies at the time. Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as debate raged about women’s place in society, their fashions reflected wider social expectations. The historic costume collection featured in this website reflects highlights of the dresses in the Bevier Historic Costume and Textile Collection.

Frank Sadorus Photograph Collection
Learn about the photographs of Frank Sadorus (1880-1934), a descendant of a pioneer family who founded Sadorus in east central Illinois. He lived and worked on the family farm, but during the off-season he photographed the people and landscape he knew intimately.

Frost Trade Bead Collection
Beginning in 1848, Stephen Allen Frost peddled beads and broadcloth among the Plains Indians as an itinerant merchant. His enterprise lasted longer than that of other traders because of his business acumen and that of his son, Dan. Learn about this collection of 71 trade bead sample cards from the Stephen A. Frost and Son Company and the men behind this interesting company.

Morton D. Barker Paperweight Collection Gallery
View the renowned Barker Collection of 252 glass objects including Classical French, British, American, and other Paperweights.

WPA Art Collection Introduction
Learn about the history Works Progress Administration in Illinois and view a sample of the Museum’s extensive Illinois WPA Art Collection.