Steward of history
“I take my role as museum educator, but also collector and preserver, to be a serious aspect of what I do,” says JON AUSTIN ’81.
When JON AUSTIN ’81 worked as an assistant in Cullom-Davis Library’s Special Collections department as a student, he had already set his sights on working in a museum. He never envisioned the museum he was hired to create would be included in a March 2007 New York Times article. Jon has been the executive director of the Museum of Funeral Customs in Springfield for the past eight years and was awarded the American Association of Museum’s 2008 Excellence in Peer Review Service Award.
The AAM recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations who have dedicated themselves to excellence within the museum field and who have set the standards for museum professionals. “A museum is more than just its public face with objects in exhibit cases,” he says. “Like all museums, we preserve for the future so that an aspect of our culture is not lost.”
At Bradley, Jon helped librarian Chuck Frey improve public service access to Special Collections materials. After graduation, he worked full time for Frey for a year and then enrolled at New York University, earning a master’s degree in American history and a professional certificate in museum studies.
From 1988 to 1995, Jon directed two New York historical societies. He was drawn back to the Midwest to take on the responsibilities of the Illinois State Historical Society in Springfield, and five years later, at the request of the Illinois Funeral Directors’ Association, took on the “exciting challenge of designing a unique museum from the walls and floor up.” Jon was hired to develop a historical-base knowledge of funeral customs for a Springfield museum created to offer a serious study of how the end of life has been handled in the United States.
Jon is proud to be part of a Bradley family, including his brother STEVEN AUSTIN ’78 MSCE ’85 and his mother MARJORIE JOHNSON AUSTIN ’45. She is a member of Chi Omega. Steven is a civil engineer with the city of Peoria.
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