The Field Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum located in the city of Chicago. It is one of the largest museums of its type in the world and has the distinction of being recognized as a premier natural history museum. This honor was bestowed upon it due to its size and the quality of the programs available. It is located on 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive.
The first name of the Field Museum was the Columbian Museum of Chicago, and it was officially incorporated on September 16th, 1893. The name reflected the reason the museum was brought about; to preserve and display the exhibits from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, otherwise known as the Chicago World’s Fair. A local business magnate Edward Ayers conceived the idea after he became aware that there was no official place to house the treasure from the fair. He approached Marshall Field with the idea and convinced him to become the museum’s first major benefactor. In 1905 the name was changed to The Field Museum to acknowledge the generous contribution by Field and also to who that it was now going to focus on the natural sciences.
The museum has many permanent collections and also hosts many traveling exhibits. From ancient Egypt, to evolution, to the largest Tyrannosaurus rex display in the world, there’s not much the Field museum misses. The museum has many Free Days available and also runs programs for reduced entrance fees.
Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood. The building the museum occupies started out as the Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 Chicago World Fair. Unlike many of the other “White City” buildings, this one was built with a brick substructure underneath the white plaster façade. Author Erik Larson wrote the book “Devil in the White City” in which he examines the architecture of the buildings from the World’s Fair.
The Museum of Science and Industry was officially established in 1933. The building had lay vacant since 1920 and there was some debate going on about how it was going to be used. Lorado Taft was interested in turning it into another art museum, the South Park Commissioners came up with an idea to sell $5 million worth of bonds to pay for turning it into a sculpture museum, and Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears and Roebuck, wanted it to become a science museum. Rosenwald convinced his fellow Commercial Club of Chicago members that the science museum was the way to go. He pledged $3 million of his own money and the rest was put up by the other members of the club.
Today the museum is one of the finest in the country. It contains many full-size exhibits and displays including a coal mine, a German submarine captured during WWII and the command module of Apollo 8.
The Adler Planetarium is a public museum dedicated to the study of astronomy and astrophysics. It was founded in 1930 and is located at 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive on the Museum Campus. Local businessman Max Adler was integral to the creation of The Adler, the first Planetarium in the Western Hemishpere. His brother-in-law was Julius Rosenwald, the founder of the Museum of Science and industry, and together with him and the connections he developed while the vice president of Sears Roebuck, he worked for the spread of education in science and mathematics.
The very idea of a planetarium was very new in 1930. Just a few years earlier, in 1923, Oskar Von Miller, commissioned for one to be designed. Carl Zeiss Works came up with the plan and by 1929 there were 15 in Germany, two in Italy, and one in both Russia and Austria. Max Adler had just retired and decided to dedicate himself to philanthropy, so when a friend talked to him and went on and on about the great planetarium in Germany, his interest was aroused. He visited Munich and in short order began working on plans to bring the first planetarium west of the Atlantic Ocean.
Today the Adler Planetarium is known around the world for its tremendous contributions to science. It’s home to three full size theaters, numerous space exhibitions, antique scientific instruments and even a cutting edge Space Visualization Laboratory. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 27th, 1987.
Chicago History Museum
The Chicago History Museum was formerly known as the Chicago Historical Society. It was founded in 1856 to study, interpret, and document the history of Chicago. It is located at 1601 N. Clark Street, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. It was renamed to the Chicago History Museum in 2006.
Chicago was recognized as a world class city by its inhabitants long before it was acknowledged by others. Because of this the Chicago Historical Society was formed and they quickly began working on finding a way to preserve the glory of the new city. They founded the museum with this intention and watched as others were drawn in by its mission.
Unfortunately, many of the early works, artifacts and collections, including the final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, that were housed in the museum were lost in the Great Fire of 1871. However, the museum was rebuilt and continued on its quest to archive the city. It has even expanded to include not just the history of Chicago, but also some significant American history. Prominent collectors and businessman from all over the city donated pieces to the museum that can still be seen to this day. Abraham Lincoln’s deathbed, the first locomotive to operate in Chicago, and even the very table that Robert E Lee signed his surrender on are still on display there.
The Hull House was a settlement house that was founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in 1889. Jane Addams became such a prominent figure in civil and social activities that the Hull House is sometimes referred to as the Jane Addams Hull House. The house was primarily used as a place for immigrants to live upon first arriving in Chicago. It allowed them a chance to get on their feet and assimilate into the community. Hull House set the bar high and became the gold standard for settlement houses. By 1920 there were almost 500 houses across the country serving the needs of the ever growing immigrant population.
Being a center for social reform is very general and broad, almost too much so to truly accomplish any specific goal, but that wasn’t the fate reserved for the Hull House. Jane Addams worked tirelessly in helping others and within the first two decades she helped many female residents who later went on to accomplish great things. By working with immigrants, those in poverty, and other downtrodden members of society Addams was able to see exactly where the city was failing its residents. The Hull House became involved in legislative reform, social activism, healthcare reform. The work that the Hull House did was formative in what is now referred to as “Social welfare”.
The Hull House is located in Little Italy. No longer a settlement house it was turned into a museum and is at 800 S. Halsted St, on the UIC campus.
Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art is located in downtown Chicago. Near Water Tower Place, the museum was established in 1967 and is one of the largest contemporary art venues in the world. Unlike most museums, this one does not have a single founder to which its origins can be traced. According to the grand opening story in Time magazine, the MCA was created after a meeting of 30 very influential people in the art world. Critics, dealers, and collectors met and discussed the idea of bringing a unique and influential art museum that would complement the Art Institute of Chicago.
The MCA has grown and evolved over the years into something much bigger and more profound than it was originally intended to be. What started as a local project has now become a beacon of international attention. In the early years the MCA placed its focus on temporary exhibits, much like the Art Galleries of Europe. However, in the 1970’s it began to add permanent works, and art that expanded beyond just the Chicago area, to its already impressive collection.
Today the MCA houses not only priceless works, the very institution itself is housed in a remarkable building. Designed by architect Josef Paul Kleihaus, the building is unique with its cast aluminum and limestone façade. It is recognizable amongst the glass and steel structures that dominate the downtown landscape.
Chicago Children’s Museum
The Chicago Children’s Museum was opened in 1982 by the Junior League of Chicago on Navy Pier. By placing an emphasis on learning through discovering, interacting and playing, the Children’s Museum separates itself from its more traditional counterparts.
The museum began as a response to the cutbacks that were taking place in the Chicago Public Schools. The early 1980’s was a difficult time in the country economically and many administrators in the city, while acknowledging the need for fiscal responsibility, couldn’t stand by idly while the most vulnerable of our society were taken from.
When the museum started it was small enough to be housed inside two hallways of the Chicago Public Library. Today it takes up over 57,000 square feet of space with a wide variety of exhibits. Dinosaur exhibits, Waterways, Kids Town, and Play It Safe are just a few of the offerings that visitors get to experience and learn from.
The Driehaus Museum is located at 40 East Erie Street on the Near North Side of Chicago. It is currently housed in the Samuel M. Nickerson House. Samuel M. Nickerson was a very prominent banker at a time when bankers were really beginning to gain prestige in the nation. He commissioned Edward J. Burling to design a mansion for him that was extravagant in every way. What he built was a modern work of art, 24,000 square feet and three-stories high. Nickerson is estimated to have spent $450,000 to complete the house.
After changing ownership over the years, at one time becoming the headquarters of the American College of Surgeons, eventually it was acquired by Richard Driehaus in 2003. He restored and remolded much of the building so that it could serve his vision of a museum. The work he put into it earned a Chicago Landmark Award for Preservation Excellence in 2008.
The Driehaus Museum is unique compared to most museums because it doesn’t have works and exhibits from many artists. Instead, the museum displays objects from the Driehaus Collection alongside the original interior and furnishings from the time the building was constructed, in 1883.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a nature museum that is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The museum first opened in 1857, however most of the exhibits were lost in the fire of 1871. It opened in its current location, the intersection of Fullerton and Cannon Drive, in October of 1999.
Robert Kennicott and Williams Stimpson recognized the need for the preservation and education of the natural history of Chicago. Through their love of nature and political connections they were able to found the Chicago Academy of Sciences, which in turn, founded the museum. After the fire, they eventually built the Matthew Laflin Memorial Building as the new home of the museum, which also served as the beginning of the Museums in the Parks for Chicago. Museum in the Parks is a program in which 9 museums that are located on Chicago Park District property are supported through a special annual tax paid by Chicagoans. It was a tax that was approved in 1903 so that the museums would receive the necessary funding to provide a rich and educational experience.
Today the museum is known for having many exhibits and displays which demonstrate the rich ecological depth of the area. It is surrounded by 5 gardens that represent five major regional ecosystems and is home to over 100 educational programs. But what is really unique is the live butterfly house. There aren’t many around…you don’t want to miss it!
The DuSable Museum of African American History is dedicated to the study and conservation of African American history, culture, and art. Currently located at 740 East 56th Place in Washington Park, it is part of the Museums of the Parks program. Their mission statement is “To promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions, and experiences of African Americans through exhibits, programs, and activities that illustrate African and African American history, culture and art.”
Founded in 1961 by Dr. Margaret Taylor-Burroughs on the ground floor of her home, the museum started with humble beginnings. It later expanded and in 1973 the Chicago Park District donated the use of a park administration building as a new site for the museum. Over the years the museum has served many functions in the black community; hosting of fundraisers, social club, and boarding house.
To this day the DuSable Museum is the oldest caretaker of African American culture in the United States. It has continued to evolve and add new displays and exhibits that have to do with African American culture. That is a big reason why it has remained open during the difficult economic times that have caused other museum to close.
The museum recently undertook a major renovation project of the nearby Roundhouse. The project began in the early 2000’s but was stalled due to financial difficulties. It should be completed in late 2018 with additional improvements added through 2021. The Roundhouse will house exhibits and displays.
National Museum of Mexican Art
The National Museum of Mexican Art showcases Mexican, Latino, and Chicano art and culture. It is currently located at 1852 W. 19th St. in the Pilsen neighborhood. It is the only Latino museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is the largest Latino cultural institution in America. They have a mission to showcase the finest Latino art and culture. With over 10,000 permanent pieces and temporary exhibits, there’s always something you haven’t seen.
International Museum of Surgical Science
The International Museum of Surgical Science is a museum featuring different aspects of Eastern and Western medicine. Located in Lake Shore Drive in the Gold Coast neighborhood this place is truly one of a kind.
Founded by Dr. Max Thorek in 1954, the museum is currently run by the International College of Surgeons. Thorek was born in Hungary and immigrated to the United States before going to college. He became widely known for many innovative surgical techniques, some of which are still in use to this day. Thorek saw the need to preserve the history of surgery so it could be studied and learned from. He began the museum in a mansion in the Gold Coast with a fraction of what it has now.
Today it is home to photographs, drawings, paintings, and over 5,000 rare manuscripts. Not only is it North America’s only museum dedicated solely to surgery, it has original works that can be found anywhere else. Over 30,000 people a year come in to get a glimpse into the way we use to treat the human body.
Smart Museum of Art
The Smart Museum of Art is an art museum located on the campus of the University of Chicago. The groundbreaking ceremony took place in 1971 after a donation from the Smart family a few years earlier. The museum was the first of its kind on the U of C campus after over a decade of desire to have one.
Today it’s home to over 10,000 permanent pieces. There are traveling pieces and exhibits that come to the museum, but it is known for the four main galleries that it maintains; modern art, Asian art, European art, and contemporary art. The Smart Museum aims to be more than just a modern day storehouse of art. As a truly innovative fine arts museum, it wants to open the world through thought provoking displays and exhibits.
The Glessner House is a museum in and of itself. What that means, is that the building itself, is the museum, not anything inside of it. The Glessner House was originally the residence of John J. Glessner. He was a very wealthly businessman of the times and in the late 19th century he decided to have his residence built on Prairie Avenue. He commissioned a young up-and-coming architect named H.H. Richardson to design what would become his masterpiece.
The beauty of the Glessner House lies in the details. The architecture is done in a unique style, in what would later be called, Richardson Romanesque style. The young architect brilliantly mixed old European Romanesque 11th and 12th century stonework and mixed it with a new American twist and modern engineering methods. The result is one of the most influential and powerful residences of the 19th century.
The house was owned by a few different people before being purchased by the Chicago Architecture Foundation in 1966. Many of the rooms have been restored to their natural luster and the family has donated what furniture it has that was originally in the home.
Museum of Contemporary Photography
This museum was founded in 1976 by Columbia College. It’s known for having a heavy rotation of work and discovering many new and up and coming artists. Located at 600 S. Michigan Avenue in the South Loop, the museum is on the Columbia campus. It is designed as a multi floor space with galleries located throughout. With over 10,000 pieces and an incredibly open and adaptive mindset with their space, new and creative things are always emerging.
“As the leading photography museum in the Midwest, presenting projects and exhibitions and acquiring works that embrace a wide range of contemporary aesthetics and technologies, the museum offers students, educators, research specialists, and general audiences an intimate and comprehensive visual study center.”