Aspirations and expectations run high for a new museum in central Illinois. But who is this museum for? Who will decide what it will contain? Who will benefit from its creation? Robert Archibald, president and CEO of the Missouri Historical Society, presents a number of thought provoking insights into these questions and more in his 2004 publication, The New Town Square: Museums and Communities in Transition. Archibald begins the book's third chapter titled this way: "Who are we? The multifaceted answer to this ongoing inquiry is the essence of community, a community that can only be built and supported by the acceptance of our full story. In examining the story of our places, we examine not only ourselves but each other, the sum total of our history and culture."

Many are joining together to make this museum a reality, and the story told will be a rich and interdisciplinary one, interwoven with art, history, science, and nature.

Lakeview Museum and its collaborative partners-Caterpillar, the Peoria Historical Society, African American Hall of Fame Museum, Peoria Regional Museum Society, Heartland Foundation, Illinois High School Association, and Nature Conservancy-ended the year with several critical tools needed to move ahead with the new Central Illinois Regional Museum and the development of Museum Square.

A possible new name for this museum effort growing from America's heartland will be explored in the future. For now, the working title is the Central Illinois Regional Museum. White Oak Associates, the museum planners who've been working with the partners, suggest exploring the museum's name after preliminary architectural drawings have been created.

Working diligently with Caterpillar and the City of Peoria, a new site agreement was approved in December 2004 that includes the development of the entire two-block area, allowing the Museum Collaboration Group and Caterpillar to move on parallel development tracks toward a common goal of creating a cultural campus on the former Sears Block. Caterpillar originally expressed an interest in being integrated within the overall museum development, but as the planning process unfolded, it was clear the cultural and corporate worlds would better serve their respective goals with separate facilities. This is a development that will give central Illinois two outstanding attractions joined on one campus, making Peoria's downtown and the region a more compelling destination.

Also in December 2004, Caterpillar announced they would be the lead corporate donor with a major gift to the new regional museum. Cat is giving the museum a $7 million outright gift, with an additional $4 million matching gift. This generous contribution demonstrates Caterpillar's commitment to central Illinois and will serve as a catalyst to inspire giving by others.

We're awaiting final state approval of the museum's Designated Zone Organization designation. Because the new museum will be located in an Illinois Enterprise Zone, with the DZO approval, companies incorporated in the State of Illinois and making donations to the museum project will receive a two-for-one tax credit.

As part of the redesigned development agreement with the City of Peoria, Caterpillar took over responsibility for the demolition and site preparation of the entire two-block site in exchange for a parcel on which they'll build a world-class Caterpillar Corporate Visitors Center. The Center will feature the Caterpillar Experience, an interactive attraction that will tell the story of Cat's people and their accomplishments and showcasing their award-winning technology. Demolition of the site will begin sometime in late spring or early summer. Museum planners look forward to the day when the walls will begin tumbling down. Such physical activity will be a true affirmation that the project is moving ahead after more than four years of planning.

The search for an architect is underway. Nearly 90 architects from around the world were identified as potential designers, and requests for proposals were sent to them. Thirty-seven firms answered the call. The list has been narrowed to 10 names-all with impressive credentials-and the Architect Search Committee will narrow that list again to just three to five finalists as the 2005 winter season draws to an end. At this stage, we'll open the process to the public and ask your opinion of the finalists and their concepts. By this summer, we'll have architectural designs for the new museum-a major milestone on the way to a projected opening in 2009.

The architects have been charged to create a significant architectural statement that will meet our multi-faceted program needs, as well as embrace the Heart of Peoria Plan and the concept of new urbanism in their proposals.

Lakeview Museum celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2005. The museum is a testament to the spirit of collaboration, as its genesis was in the early 1960s among 26 different groups that joined together to make the museum happen. The collaborative spirit that is central Illinois remains alive and well as we enter the next chapter of communal museum building. This time the partnership is even more diverse and will culminate in a cultural campus that will celebrate our past, enrich the present, and help us realize an exciting, inclusive future. AA!