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Project June 25, 2020

Prairie State Museums Project: The Impact of COVID-19 on Illinois Museums


The purpose of this project is to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local museums in Illinois, and in turn, highlight the value these critical community institutions bring to the everyday lives of Illinoisans. With 13 local news media partners across Illinois and one national outlet, the goal of this project is to disseminate timely and compelling information about the value of museums. Sixteen local freelance journalists will document the effects of COVID-19 on these institutions over three months. As a result of this collaboration, participating journalists will deepen their knowledge and experience in crisis, public health, and arts and culture reporting. This will strengthen critical expertise in independent journalism in an increasingly global and volatile world.

Using information from Arts Alliance Illinois' Culture Sector Impact Assessment—which documents the financial impact of COVID-19 on cultural institutions—journalists will draw on standardized statistical data to report on the detrimental effects of the current downturn on museums and the communities they serve. With the support of three conference calls among all journalists, as well as ongoing communication with their editor, each journalist will write two 800- to 1,200-word stories, which will be linked digitally by and among all 16 journalists participating in this project and on a special project website. Stories will be cross-published in additional print and online outlets. Feedback, ideas, and surveys of journalists, speakers, and editors will be compiled in a summary report and accompanying video including findings and recommendations for future "news collaboration challenges."