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Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

National Museum of Surveying Print E-mail
Written by David Ingram, LS   
Thursday, 26 July 2007

A 1.289Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

On Wednesday, April 11, 2007 a press conference was held in Springfield, Illinois to announce that the National Museum of Surveying had purchased property and was coming to town. As President of the Board of Trustees, I stood before the assembled media, community leaders, and friends to announce the plans for moving the Museum to Springfield, and the partnership with other groups that will make up The Illinois Heritage Center that will lease space from the National Museum of Surveying.

A Long Road to Springfield
Just as the family of Abraham Lincoln followed a long road to Springfield, so has the Museum of Surveying followed a long and, at times, frustrating road. The Museum of Surveying started as a dream of a group of dedicated surveyors in Michigan back in the 1970s. The initial plans called for a museum and park at the two initial points located in Michigan near Jackson. For many reasons that dream did not come to pass, but neither did it die. In 1989 the Michigan Museum of Surveying opened its doors in downtown Lansing. In the ensuing years the Museum continued to grow in size and purpose while constantly expanding its scope of services. About seven or eight years ago, under the leadership of William Soderberg, the Museum dropped the word "Michigan" from its title and officially became The Museum of Surveying with a stated intent and purpose of serving the entire country. As the only museum in the Western Hemisphere devoted exclusively to surveying, the trustees recognized that they had a responsibility beyond the borders of Michigan.

With continued growth, the hiring of full time, professional museum staff, expanding collections, and outreach programming, the Museum found itself in desperate need of expanded facilities that would serve as a base for its many needs. For the last four or five years the trustees struggled with several plans of renovation, expansion, or new construction in the Lansing area. With many false starts and frustrations, they finally decided to look outside of Lansing at other possibilities.

Springfield Shines Bright on the Horizon

Trustee Bob Church, Executive Director of the Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association, inquired about a year ago, "Would the trustees be interested in looking at Springfield for a new home?" The others responded with, "Make a proposal." While other sites throughout Michigan were still under investigation, information about Springfield was presented and the trustees authorized myself as president and Bob Church as host to look at real estate possibilities in Springfield.

A visit to Springfield in the late summer quickly pointed to a particular building in downtown Springfield. A modern building with a colonial style stood out as a leading candidate for our new home. It was located on the north side of the Old State Capitol square, less than a block from the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum complex, diagonally across the square from the Lincoln Law Office, and only a couple of blocks from the Lincoln home in Springfield. The location was almost too good to be true and the price seemed reasonable. A couple of months later the Michigan reenactment group, which includes several of the trustees, also visited Springfield. They, too, felt this site offered a real future for us.

From there things moved forward. An offer was made on the building, a contract was accepted, more meetings were held, the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors endorsed the project, and finally on March 1, 2007, a closing took place and the National Museum of Surveying took title to the building for its new home.

Plans for Our New Home
In addition to the obvious public gallery space for the museum, the new location is going to offer us many things we have never had before. We are actually going to have office space for our staff, a library that will become a wonderful research facility, adequate storage space for our growing collection, an 1,800 square foot multi-purpose room, and a building that is fully climate controlled for the comfort of visitors and the preservation of the collection.

But there is more. Several organizations that make up the Illinois Heritage Center are going to join us as tenants. First and foremost, the Under the Prairie Archeological Museum is going to join us. This group will help us draw more visitors through the front door and will offer various workshops and other endeavors in cooperation with the University of Illinois. The State Historical Society will also have its offices in the building as well as providing Illinois Heritage exhibits in the upstairs lobby. Finally, the Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association will move their offices into the building. This consortium of tenants will help The National Museum of Surveying building become a true destination for visitors.

A true museum is more than just a collection of a group of artifacts, which is the goal for our museum as well. We will continue our tradition of publications and expand it over time to include books and other monographs. We have started developing a graded educational curriculum to integrate surveying into the public education system, and this, too, will continue to grow. Other dreams include traveling exhibits, lending programs, research services for people that can't make it to our library, an expanded website, and other ideas yet to be born.

In order to make this project come to life, we are going to need the support from friends throughout the country. To pay off the loan that helped us buy the building and get the doors open we need to raise approximately $1.1 million. That may seem like a lot, but things are off to a good start in just the couple of months since we purchased the building. To start with, we began with about $140,000 that had been previously raised and not spent to renovate our old building. But where is the other $960,000 going to come from? The money to fund the project will come from four main sources.

First will be the manufacturers and suppliers that all of us deal with on a daily basis. At the time of writing this article we have not started approaching them, but that will come in the near future.

Second will be the state societies. It is our desire to be a truly "national" museum, and one thing that will make that be a reality is for all of the state societies to join us in our endeavor. Already we have cash or commitments from the Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia societies. The largest of these three is for a commitment of $28,500. We hope that all 50 states and the District of Columbia will join in at whatever level they are comfortable.

Third will be the numerous chapters of the state societies. Several chapters are already on board with us including chapters from Illinois and Virginia. The North-East Illinois chapter is onboard at a pledge of $15,000. Again, we hope that every chapter across the country will join us at whatever level the feel they can afford. Be it $100 or $1,000, each and every gift will be welcomed and appreciated.

Fourth will be individual gifts. If every licensed surveyor in the country gave us just $20 we would be finished. Now I know that won't happen, but if one in five surveyors gave us $100 we would be finished. Or, and this is where you might help us, if 1000 surveyors gave us $80 a month for a year, we would be finished.

Raising over a million dollars may not be the easiest task in the world, but with a great group of friends and supporters from all over the country we will make it. We are going to have a great museum that all surveyors may be proud of and that will serve to educate the public about our wonderful profession and give them a new appreciation for what we mean to every citizen of this great country.

We encourage you to join us on our journey and suggest you check out additional information and download your pledge form at: www.surveyhistory.org/national_museum_of_surveying.htm

David Ingram is a licensed Professional Land Surveyor in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, and is the managing partner of Ingram-Hagen & Co., PLC. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Museum for about ten years and has been President for the last four years. He travels the country presenting seminars on Ethics for Surveyors and the History of Surveying.

A 1.289Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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