Late last week we learned that Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, former director of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum, had been admitted to hospice. To our sorrow, Cinnamon passed away over the weekend. According to a press release from the Illinois State Museum, she had been struggling with an aggressive resurgence of cancer for which she had previously received treatment.
Cinnamon became the Director of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in April 2003. She quickly started professionalizing the Museum by getting grants to finish the renovation of the Carriage House. This allowed the Museum to reorganize and properly store collections, start a yearly exhibit program, and provide more educational opportunities for schools and visitors. She set in motion all of the things the museum has accomplished over the last 20 years. Without her starting the ball rolling, it would have been a much harder struggle to accomplish all of the restoration work since her departure.
Amanda McGuire, former Associate Director of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum, says, “She had high standards and fought fiercely for equity and decolonization in museums. At the same time, she was the person in the room having the most fun, with the biggest smile, and an amazing sense of humor.”
Dale Petrie, former Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society trustee, writes, “I was saddened to learn of the death of Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko. She was a person who impacted all that she came in contact with in a positive way. She caused people to understand that all museums are important places. The organizational skills, professionalism, and expectation of success that she brought with her to the Lew Wallace Museum changed the culture here. It was an honor to know and work with her.”
Cinnamon had been the Director of the Illinois State Museum since 2019. Before that she was at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine, where she worked tirelessly for the decolonization of museums. Immediately prior to her time at the Abbe Museum, Cinnamon was Director of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum. Her efforts led to the museum winning the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in 2008, the creation of the Taste of Montgomery County, the renovation of the Carriage House, and a higher level of recognition for Lew Wallace through our community and throughout the nation.
Her professional biography is on the Illinois State Museum website. You can also view Cinnamon’s TEDx talk about decolonizing museums on YouTube below.
Cinnamon is survived by her husband Larry and son Jacob. A memorial fund has been set up with the American Association of State and Local History.