Located in Champaign, Illinois on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum showcases ethnographic collections highlighting the cultures and artifacts of world civilizations throughout history and across the globe. The Spurlock Museum’s structure today owes itself to three historic museums on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, beginning with the establishment of the Museum of Classical Archaeology and Art and the Museum of European Culture in 1911.
Six years later, the museum established an Oriental Museum, which was merged into the Museum of Classical Archaeology and Art in 1929 to form the Classical and Oriental Museum. In 1954, the two remaining historical museums merged to form a new combined facility, which was rebranded as the World Heritage Museum following the addition of African artifact collections in 1971.
Until the late 1990s, the campus’ historical and archaeological museums operated out of the fourth floor of its Lincoln Hall building, but in 1995, a sizeable donation by university donors William and Clarice Spurlock facilitated the creation of a new permanent museum facility for the World Heritage Museum on the campus’ east side. In preparation of the museum’s move to its new home, additional collections were acquired from other campus museums and departments, including substantial donations by the now-defunct Museum of Natural History. Transfer of the museum’s collections to the new facility was an expansive process that spanned more than two years and required detailed inventory and cataloguing of more than 30,000 items. In September of 2002, the new Spurlock Museum facility was officially opened to the public.
Permanent Collections and Exhibits
Today, the Spurlock Museum is operated as a part of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, offering an expansive collection of artifacts from world cultures spanning across the history of human civilization. Museum exhibit areas showcase artifacts from the ancient Mediterranean and Egypt, Africa, East Asia and Oceania, Europe, and the Americas. In addition to permanent exhibit areas, the museum also features a rotating temporary exhibit gallery, an auditorium facility, an educational learning center, and extensive space for artifact research and storage.
More than 51,000 objects are held as part of the museum’s permanent collection, which has been expanded with major donations by the university’s Department of Anthropology, former Museum of Natural History, and College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences’ Bevier Collection. Collections span more than one million years of human social and cultural history and include items found on every continent but Antartica. Notable collections include the Fred A. Freund Collection of Chinese and Japanese Wood Carvings, which features more than 200 artifacts from Japan’s Edo and Meiji Periods and China’s Qing Dynasty, the Edgar J. Banks Collection of Sumerian and Babylonian Clay Tablets,which contains 1,750 cuneiform scripts from ancient Mesopotamia, and the Crocker Land Expedition-Collection from the Arctic, which presents artifacts and photographs from the 1913-1917 Arctic explorations of ethnologist Donald B. MacMillan. While all collections are preserved in storage at the museum, only four to five percent of collections are on display at any given time as part of exhibits.
Nine permanent exhibit areas are showcased at the museum, offering an exploration of major cultures throughout the world and across history. All exhibits are connected by a Central Core area, which emphasizes ideas essential to human civilization and culture. The museum’s first floor features exhibit areas for North America, South America, and the Ancient Mediterranean, while the second floor showcases exhibits related to East and Southeast Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa, Ancient Mesopotamia, and Ancient Egypt. Cultures not covered as part of permanent exhibits, including India, Russia, and Central America, are showcased in temporary exhibits at the museum’s Campbell Gallery, which rotates exhibits twice a year. In addition to exhibit areas, the museum also features a 215-seat Knight Auditorium, educational Zahn Learning Center space, World Heritage Museum Guild Educational Resource Center, and the Heiligenstein and Spurlock Museum Guild Gardens, which showcase traditional French, indigenous American, and Japanese gardens.
Ongoing Programs and Education
In addition to standard museum admission, the Spurlock Museum offers tours and workshop programming for small groups and organizations, including curriculum-incorporated field trips for elementary and secondary school students. Available docent-led tours focus on topics relate to specific cultures and human cultural ideas found within the museum’s collections. Activities for self-guided tours are also offered, including a family Spurlock Sherlock investigative game. Outreach programming for area schools is available for booking, including classroom visits by ethnic and folk artists. A variety of public event programming is offered at the museum on an ongoing basis, including lectures, panel discussions, open house events, and family art workshops.
600 S Gregory St, Urbana, IL 61801, Phone: 217-333-2360