As state historian, Wheeler will direct research and collections
at the state historical library, a part of the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum. He will also lead efforts to use
the state’s historical resources, such as museums, library
collections and historic sites, to educate the public about
Illinois’ rich heritage.
Wheeler, currently a research historian at the Lincoln Presidential
Library, noted the state’s bicentennial is approaching and the
Barack Obama presidential library will be coming to Illinois. Those
events will create new opportunities to engage the public and
collaborate on educational projects, he said.
“I’m excited about the many challenges that await the Illinois state
historian. It’s a tremendous honor to serve the state and the many
institutions dedicated to our incredible legacy,” said Wheeler, who
will be the 10th state historian. “We can make Illinois a nationwide
leader in preserving and promoting history.”
Wheeler, 38, holds a Ph.D. in history from Southern Illinois
University, a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at
Springfield and a bachelor’s from Illinois State University. He
lives in Springfield with his son, Owen.
He has worked at the Lincoln Presidential Library since 2013.
Earlier positions include researcher for the Papers of Abraham
Lincoln, a joint project of the presidential library and the
University of Illinois; a lecturer at Southern Illinois University;
and a site interpreter at the Old State Capitol and Lincoln-Herndon
Law Offices historic sites.
James Bruner, chair of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Board of Trustees, welcomed Wheeler. “Illinoisans will benefit from
having someone with his knowledge and enthusiasm leading our efforts
to research the state’s fascinating history and share it with the
world,” Bruner said.
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Wheeler will report to Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Lowe helped select Wheeler
from a nationwide pool of applicants.
“I was impressed by Sam’s love of Illinois history, his experience as both a
researcher and teacher, and his ideas for engaging the public,” Lowe said.
“Filling this position is an important step forward.”
The previous state historian was Thomas Schwartz, now director of the Herbert
Hoover Presidential Library & Museum in West Branch, Iowa.
The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency protects the state’s historic
resources, which contribute to education, culture and the economy. Its 56 sites
include ancient burial mounds, forts and buildings erected by settlers, and
homes connected to famous Illinoisans.
It also oversees the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which
tells the story of America’s 16th president through old-fashioned scholarship
and modern technology. The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln
material, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois
[ Christopher Wills]