THE ILLINOIS COAL MUSEUM AT GILLESPIE
NEEDS YOUR HELP
The City of Gillespie is committed to a downtown beautification and economic revitalization plan centered upon The Illinois Coal Museum at Gillespie and has acquired a building and dedicated the funds to restore and maintain it.
The development and construction of the exhibits, staffing, archiving, and promotion are in need of funding.
Our intent is to offer more than just a collection of coal mining memorabilia, we want our visitors to enjoy a walk through our mining past and enjoy a glimpse into the future of the industry. Education combined with entertainment will ensure a memorable visit.
The entry/welcome center will combine a brush with Gillespie history on the way to city hall, a bit of Route 66 information and memorabilia to make Mother Road travelers feel at home, and then on to the coal exhibits.
The Gillespie Story
From a village of 600 in the 1870s, to a coal mining boom town of 6,000, then to a post mining era population of 3,200, Gillespie has seen its ups and downs. The wealth of information available from the 100 years of Gillespie newspapers as well as personal anecdotes will easily fuel tableaus depicting our local heritage that intertwines with the coal mining boom.
The Story of Coal
Without coal there would be no mines, no miners, no Gillespie. A blend of enhanced and simple displays and a CM Studio sculpture for a wow factor will transport the visitor on a short but concise 300 million year journey. Now that we have coal, what has been achieved, what has coal provided as part of our quality of life, and what will be its future? Our nation’s growth and climb to world prominence in the 19th and early 20th centuries was fueled by coal and the coal is here to stay. The challenge for today is to learn for our past to improve the future of the coal industry.
The story of Illinois Coal Mining is the story of the American Westward Expansion. The availability of abundant and low cost energy from coal fueled one of the most dramatic periods of economic growth and human migration the world has ever seen. The Illinois Museum of Coal at Gillespie has the opportunity, and indeed the obligation, to present and preserve the heritage of coal. A wealth of information about the mines is available from local, county, and state records as well as from the mining companies.
Our Mines exhibit will offer a portal to the Illinois coal mining progression from the 1880s to the present. Mine types, drift, strip, slope, and shaft mines could be compared – an Illinois coal mining timeline would feature Father Louis Hennepin (1698) to present. From pick, mule, and shovel, to the continuous mining machine and long wall mining – we will cover it all. The coal mining companies and mining machine manufacturers have a huge stake in the coal industry. We will need their support to have an enhanced set of indoor and outdoor displays.
The story of the Miners is by far, the most compelling area of our mission. Local newspapers and the county courthouse are starting points that will lead to an unlimited number of potential exhibits. The coal boom brought an influx of immigrants that affect our communities to this day. Who came from where, when, why, how many. Pick your town, choose a year, and highlight a specific migration. Mining disasters and deaths came in many forms. Fire, flooding, explosion, cave in, mule kicks, and electrocution were countered by mine rescue and safety teams, below ground hospitals and aid stations, safety lamps, canaries, and much more to display.
The Unions of Macoupin County
UMWA – Virden massacre, Progressive Miners, Mother Jones, underground sit in strike, on and on. The union activity in our county had national and even worldwide impact. This short description is in no way an indication of the scope of our union exhibit, just the available space here.
As we all know, children are a major driving force in parental trip planning and destination choice. Happy and involved children will impact the overall experience of each visitor. Our main exhibits will include age appropriate material and a coal mining playroom is planned.
We have strong ties to the local school district and will strive to incorporate coal, coal mining history, and introduce “the other side” of environmental concerns throughout the curriculum. Only through education, young and old alike, will we achieve our mission.
Theater- Conference Room
By combining the city’s council chamber with a theater/lecture/meeting hall, our plan is versatile as well as cost effective. The adjacent full kitchen is also available to provide refreshments to groups and for fundraising functions.
Outside Display Areas
Murals, interpretive signs, and various photo ops are mainstays of the Route 66 communities. Gillespie has several areas available for large mining equipment displays.
The Illinois Coal Museum at Gillespie has the potential to be the finest museum on Route 66 and play a major role in the reinvigoration of a small town.