Last Wednesday, Robbie and I paid a visit to one of my favorite museums in the whole world, The Field Museum here in Chicago. A new exhibition, Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World's Fair, had just opened, and we were both really excited to check it out. The exhibition takes visitors back to 1893, to the World's Columbian Exposition - one of the greatest events in the history of Chicago (and the entire United States!). One thing I'd never realized is that The Field Museum was founded to commemorate this World's Fair, and getting to participate in the exhibition knowing this fact gave me a whole new appreciation for the museum itself.
We had both downloaded the Field Museum Tours mobile app before we arrived, and being able to use that as our virtual guide made the experience even cooler. There were several stops within in the app (in the World's Fair exhibition itself and in other galleries as well) that provided interesting facts and additional information. One of our favorites was at the totem poles in Stanley Field Hall, which included the raddest interactive 360 panorama. It was a very impressive way to start the tour!
Within the exhibition, we saw over 200 artifacts and specimens from every corner of the fair's grounds. There was really cool fair memorabilia (including a financial ledger and tickets), Peruvian mummies, 3D printed replicas of figurines found inside one of the mummy bundles, instruments from the gamelan played at the Javanese village on the fair's midway (and an interactive instrument that I had way too much fun playing), murals and atmospheric projections that took us right to the fair's grounds, and much more (too much to list). There were also objects that are commonplace today but were marvels back then - like the light bulb and electricity, which had just been invented. Pretty crazy.
I think that for me, the most interesting realization I gained while walking through the exhibition was how much the understanding and study of cultures has changed over time. At the 1893 World's Fair there were actual people put on display, through recreated villages and exhibits that showed other cultures in their traditional costumes and buildings. They were there to highlight the differences between non-western and western cultures, which seems strange (even shocking) in today's world. Whereas present cultural displays aim to celebrate the creativity and diversity of all cultures, these made a point of showing how different non-westerners were.
It had been so long since the last time that either of us went to The Field Museum, so after we finished the World's Fair exhibition, we checked out several other galleries and collections. It's always amazing to see Sue, the world's most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex. Robbie was all about the dinosaurs, and we both loved the Evolving Planet exhibition, which showcased four billion years of life. Ancient Egypt was another favorite (I was so smitten with all of the intricate jewelry), along with the Tibet collection.
If you live in the Chicago area or plan on visiting, I highly recommend paying a visit to the museum and checking out Wonders of the 1893 World's Fair, which runs through September 7, 2014. We had so much fun that we're considering going back again later this month.
Have you ever been to the Field Museum? Or have you seen any especially interesting museum exhibitions lately?
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