It’s no accident that Chicago’s museums plan fun exhibits to open right when youngsters are out of school and tourists jam downtown streets.
Recent fruitful pop-ins at a few of the city’s museum’s revealed the following summer bucket list of exhibits. They either just opened or will do so soon. Go because they are perfect for kids or go to satisfy your own curiosity..
A fascinating, hands-on exploration of the “The Science Behind Pixar” used in “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo” opened May 24 at the Museum of Science and Industry. The Shedd Aquarium’s stunning “Underwater Beauty” exhibit that opened May 25 shows off the colors, patterns and movements of more than 100 species.
The Field Museum’s eye-opening “Antarctic Dinosaurs” opened June 15 and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s insightful “I Was Raised on the Internet” opens June 23.
A penguin with a purpose. A Wright that is right. Those are just two of the special gifts that can be found in Chicago museums.
Instead of fighting crowds on Black Friday, use the day off to visit a favorite museum and its gift shop. Museum stores are not only filled with fun and artistic gifts, they also funnel that money you spend back into programs and other costs.
Plus, holiday shopping when you can also watch penguins play or visit a favorite art period adds to the fun of finding a present that matches a person’s interest.
However, if you don’t make it down to Chicago, browse the museum stores’ web sites. They are easy to maneuver because most are broken into different categories so don’t worry if the first link you find merely says store. Watch for scrolling options and look for such links as jewelry, toys and home decor.
The Shedd, in the middle of the Museum campus at 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., is a favorite destination when youngsters and adults have a day off. However, you can also look in the shop on line to find everything from toddler shark hoodies to soft, plus animals that have wallett friendly prices. Visit Shedd Shop and call (312) 939-2438 if you have some questions.
First museum on the campus, the Field at 1400 S. Lake shore Dr., has a huge store worth a visit anytime you are on the museum campus. However, the store’s website is also huge. Note that different shop areas scroll across the Field store site. Click on one that particularly catches your attention or merelyh look for such categories as home décor and toys. Among the sites is one for Ancient Mediterranean objects. For other information call (312) 922-9410.
Both sections of theArt Institute of Chicago, the traditional building at 111 S. Michigan Ave. and the Modern Wing at 159 E. Monroe St. have wonderful gift shops near their entrances so visitors can shop without paying admission. But if there, it is hard to resist visiting a favorite gallery.
If shopping on line look for different categories such as apparel, stationary, books (even coloring books for famous paintins or architectural items, glass objects or a particular artist at AICShop. There is even a site for all Frank Lloyd Wright items. For other information call (312) 443-3600.
Visit the MCA, as it is popularly known, to see its latest exhibition of important contemporary works upstairs on the Fourth Floor but also to dine in its new restaurant on the ground floor. The museum is at 220 E. Chicago Ave.
But if saving that visit for a day after the holidays, go on line to the MCA Store to vfnd such fun objects as desktop and hanging mobiles or fun, objects by artist Murakami.
If trying to match a present to a history buff or someone interested in Chicago, a great place to find a book or related gift is at the Chicago History Museum Shop. The building, situated in Lincoln Park at 1601 N. Clark St., is also an easy bus ride from downtown Chicago.
Visit MSI to see its Robots, Lego or Mirror Maze exhibit or for its fairy castle or coal mine. You will find related items and gifts for you young scientiist in the museum gift shop. The museum is at 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive near the Hyde Park/ University of Chicago neighborhoods.
But you can also shop on line for toys, books and other gift items. The store has a gift guide.
Visitors stepping into “Ancient Mediterranean Cultures in Contact” at the Field Museum are likely to have a preconceived notion that they will be looking at exceptional examples of jewelry, pottery and probably a mummy and objects from Pompeii. But you would be just partially right.
Those items are there. In fact, there are about 100 fine examples of early Egyptian, Etruscan Greek and Roman objects pertaining to their polytheistic societies. But there is also a clip from a CNN broadcast at the entrance and Coptic material from a later monotheistic culture plus a modern day child’s life jacket at the end.
Curving around through the exhibit guests pass tall story boards about societal changes regarding religions, language and ideas. One board says: As Ideas Move Societies Change.
The boards are reminders that even back in the time the objects were made, whether BC or early A.D., the people using them were members of societies influenced by other cultures through trade, travel and wars and that they valued or argued about techniques and ideas from other places.
One board says: “When societies interact, things move, people move and ideas move.” It goes on to explain: “We experience this in our own lives when we buy imported fruit at the store, talk to a neighbor who grew up in another country or take a yoga class at the gym. But the movement of things, people and ideas across cultures isn’t new – this has been going on since the beginning of human history.”
Bill Parkinson who put the exhibition together originally considered doing an exhibit of Roman and Etruscan cultures. “The Field has fabulous Roman and Etruscan collections,” said Parkinson, associate curator of Eurasian anthropology.
But then he added that when an exhibit begins with the word “The” as in “The Greeks,” which, by the way, was a very fine Field exhibit November 2015 to April 2016, it concentrates just on one culture’s objects and contributions.
He pointed out that the idea for the current exhibit which opens Oct. 20, 2017 and continues through April 29, 2018, began about the same time as “The Greeks” but with a different objective
“It is about ideas. We’re telling stories about people. It’s interesting looking 800 to 200 B.C at the Etruscans, Rome, Pompei and how they relate to each other. As we pulled it all in, how Etruscans related to Greece and Rome related to Egypt it was an Oh, moment. The connections exploded,” Parkinson said.
The Coptic material is also important. “When cultures went from polytheistic to monotheistic those connections exploded. One god became critical during the first millennium. (January 1, AD 1, and ended on December 31, AD 1000), he said.
Tip: Because this exhibit is about connections rather than what happened first and second, it’s arranged by influences and connections, not chronologically. So while enjoying such objects as a necklace, a well-carved figure or an attractive pot, look at their descriptions because they mention influences such as how an item was made by one society in the style of a different culture.
“The objects tell stories. When we pulled them for the collection we did so to tell a truth about the time,” Parkinson said.
The exhibit also makes the point with TV broadcasts and found objects that societal connections continue today.
Or as Parkinson noted: “You don’t expect to see CNN or another headline when you walk into an ancient Mediterranean show or see Coptic material at the end.”
“Specimens: Unlocking the Secrets of Life,” takes Field Museum visitors behind the scenes in a new exhibit.
What any scientist knows that few Field visitors grasp as they try to see everything in the museum, is that what’s out there is less than one percent of millions of collection items.
But few Field guests get to see some of those items where they are stored or where the curators work.
Therefore, some of those objects, such as a giant clamshell, a very long sawfish snout (rostrum), a few dinosaur bones and some extinct species have been temporarily moved into a main floor exhibit hall accompanied by videos and interactive tables so visitors get to see some of what the Field collects and why.
“Lots of people don’t realize that we have collections behind the scenes, let alone collections numbering over 30 million objects,” says Director of Exhibitions Jaap Hoogstraten.
The exhibit’s videos and a reconstructed curator’s office with maps showing locations of water beetles, remind visitors that the Field is way more than a place to see interesting items.
“…the Museum is an active research institution where scientists work and make discoveries based upon these collections,” Hoogstraten said.
Some of the specimens reveal chemical and other changes in their environment such as the mercury levels in oceans over time.
Another display shows creatures and plants that lived millions of years ago. It includes fossils from Mason Creek such as the Tully Monster. The area is an exceptional site south of Chicago that was an inland sea about 300 million years ago.
“Museum collections are a way to preserve the past so that we can learn from it in the future,” Hoogstraten said.
Details: “Specimens: Unlocking the Secrets of Life” is at The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, March 10, 2017 through Jan. 8, 2018. For admission and other information visit Field or call (312) 922-9410.