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Peoria Riverfront Museum gets $1M commitment, amethyst geode as 10th anniversary gifts

221027 PRM amethyst.jpg
Joe Deacon
During a 10th anniversary celebration Thursday, Peoria Riverfront Museum representatives unveil a 10-foot amethyst geode added to the museum's permanent collection.

Two major gifts made for a memorable 10th anniversary celebration Thursday morning at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

Along with the announcement of a $1 million commitment from the Gilmore Foundation, the museum unveiled the latest acquisition for its permanent collection: A 10-foot amethyst geode from Uruguay.

Peoria Riverfront Museum President and CEO John Morris said the towering mineral exhibit they’re calling simply “The Amethyst” is the third largest on public display in the world.

“It’s amazing because of what it will inspire with our children, our families, our visitors to the museum: the wonder of nature, the beautiful dark purple quartz crystals. It's really remarkable,” said Morris. “We've just added to our collection one of the great mineral samples there is on earth, and not one dime of this comes from taxpayers. It's all privately supported.”

Gilmore Foundation Executive Director Laura Cullinan announced the organization’s latest pledge to the museum, matching a donation made by Bob Gilmore a decade ago to help establish the museum.

“Peoria is one of the top philanthropic communities in the country, and part of the Gilmore Foundation's gift is designed to inspire additional giving,” said Cullinan, adding a quarter of the new grant will act as a matching gift with “Visionary Society” donors who pledge at least $10,000.

“Bob Gilmore was a proud Peorian who dedicated his entire life's work toward furthering its success. The Peoria Riverfront Museum is a great source of pride in our community, and we can't wait to see what happens in the next 10 years.”

Morris said the Gilmore Foundation gift represents a significant donation toward helping the museum move forward.

“The Gilmore Foundation $1 million commitment is going to fuel the acquisition of bigger and bigger exhibitions that will help bring folks in and inspire people at this museum,” said Morris, touting a “Body Worlds Rx” exhibit coming next year and the arrival of “Sharks” in 2024.

Morris heralded the museum’s growth over its first decade, pointing to two million “visitor experiences and digital interactions” in the past 10 years, and 50,000 curriculum-related visits through the “Every Student Initiative.”

The anniversary celebration Thursday featured remarks from several community leaders and museum supporters, including retired Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth.

LaHood, who also serves as chair of the museum’s President’s Advisory Council, echoed Morris in touting the benefits of the Every Student program.

“This is ‘the People's House.’ Today, this is the gathering place for central Illinois,” said LaHood. “It's the gathering place for children in our schools who come here for the first time, and are presented with an opportunity to look at culture for the first time. Those are the next members of the Peoria Riverfront Museum and that's why this program is so important.”

Gordon-Booth reflected on being able to enjoy places like the Riverfront Museum and it’s predecessor, the Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences, when she was young.

“When I think about the experiences that I had at 8 years old with my grandmother, and I now think about the experiences that my daughter has and that all of the other children in this region get an opportunity to have in this phenomenal institution,” said Gordon-Booth. “Our shared values, our collective history, the traditions that we have that move us forward.

“But more importantly, the future and what that can look like when we bring children together, when we bring communities together to dream about who we can be by looking at who we were, where we are, but more importantly, where we want to go. This facility is such a phenomenal example of what happens when people choose to come together.”

Other participants in Thursday’s anniversary celebration included: Doug and Diane Oberhelman, advisory council members who provided the lead gifts to acquire “The Amethyst;" museum board chair Steve Jackson; Peoria County Board chair Andrew Rand; and guest curator Bill Heidrich, the former CEO and executive chairman at Caterpillar, Inc.

“What's particularly wonderful for this institution is that we can contrast this great work of Mother Nature with the best works of mankind,” said Heidrich. “Just within the year, the museum acquired another great piece, the Ron Bladen sculpture, which is on view in the front. For children to engage them, for anyone who has never had experience with art or science, I think these objects make great ways to bring people in to greater understanding and greater experience.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.