The Field Museum of Natural History: Exploring Nature’s Wonders
Welcome to the Field Museum of Natural History, an awe-inspiring institution located in the heart of Chicago, Illinois. As one of the largest natural history museums in the world, the Field Museum offers visitors an unparalleled opportunity to explore and learn about the wonders of the natural world. With its extensive scientific collections, educational programs, and captivating exhibitions, the museum serves as a gateway to understanding our planet’s rich biodiversity and the fascinating stories of human history.
Unearthing the Museum’s Origins
The history of the Field Museum dates back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, where a collection of artifacts was displayed to captivate the fair’s visitors. Recognizing the need to preserve and share these treasures with future generations, the merchant Marshall Field generously funded the establishment of the museum. Originally known as the Columbian Museum of Chicago, it was officially incorporated in 1893 with a mission to accumulate and disseminate knowledge related to art, archaeology, science, and history.
In 1905, the museum’s name was changed to the Field Museum of Natural History to honor its first major benefactor and to reflect its focus on the natural sciences. Since then, the Field Museum has grown in stature, becoming one of the three premier natural history museums in the United States, alongside the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.
A World of Exhibitions and Collections
The Field Museum boasts a vast array of permanent exhibitions that showcase the diversity of life on Earth, spanning from ancient fossils to contemporary cultures. Each exhibition offers a unique and immersive experience, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the natural world and the urgent need for conservation.
Animal Halls: A Journey into the Wild
Step into the Animal Halls and embark on a journey through different habitats across the globe. From the African savannah to the depths of the Amazon rainforest, these exhibits bring you face-to-face with a wide range of animal species. Marvel at the lifelike dioramas that depict animals in their natural surroundings, allowing you to observe their behaviors and adaptations up close. Don’t miss the infamous man-eating lions of Tsavo or the Mfuwe man-eating lion, both legendary figures in the animal kingdom.
In the Animal Halls, you’ll encounter a rich variety of species, including the African buffalo, Bengal tiger, cheetah, and polar bear. The collection also features lesser-known creatures like the bongo, gerenuk, and gelada baboon. With over 24 million specimens, the museum’s animal collection represents the full range of existing biodiversity, making it a valuable resource for scientific research and conservation efforts.
Evolving Planet: Tracing the Story of Life
Take a journey spanning 4 billion years at the Evolving Planet exhibition. Witness the evolution of life on Earth, from the emergence of single-celled organisms to the rise of dinosaurs and the evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. Through a captivating display of fossils, including those of dinosaurs, early mammals, and hominids, this exhibition highlights the interconnectedness of all living organisms and the ever-changing nature of our planet.
The Field Museum’s collection of synapsid fossils is particularly noteworthy, with specimens representing various species from different periods. Among these fossils are the remains of creatures like Tiktaalik, a transitional fossil that provides insights into the evolution of land-dwelling animals from fish, and Acheloma, an early amphibian-like tetrapod. These fossils, along with many others, contribute to our understanding of the ancient world and the evolutionary processes that have shaped life on Earth.
Inside Ancient Egypt: Exploring an Ancient Civilization
Step into the world of ancient Egypt and unravel the mysteries of this fascinating civilization. Inside Ancient Egypt exhibition offers a glimpse into the daily life, rituals, and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. Marvel at the intricate hieroglyphs that adorn the walls of a replica mastaba tomb and discover the artistry and symbolism behind ancient Egyptian artifacts.
One of the highlights of this exhibition is the display of human mummies and mummified animals, providing a glimpse into the ancient Egyptian practices of preserving the dead. Explore an ancient marketplace, visit a shrine dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet, and learn about the intricate process of preparing the deceased for the afterlife. Inside Ancient Egypt offers a captivating window into the rich cultural heritage of one of the world’s most ancient civilizations.
The Ancient Americas: Journey through Time and Culture
The Ancient Americas exhibition invites visitors to explore the rich cultural history of the Western Hemisphere. Spanning 13,000 years, this exhibition showcases the achievements and innovations of diverse societies that thrived long before the arrival of Europeans. From the Arctic to South America, this exhibition traces the peopling of the Americas, highlighting the unique cultural traditions and artistic expressions of indigenous peoples.
The exhibition is divided into six displays, each focusing on a different aspect of ancient American civilizations. Learn about the hunting techniques of Ice Age hunters, the agricultural practices of farming villagers, and the political structures of powerful leaders. Marvel at the craftsmanship of ancient artifacts, such as totem poles and ceremonial objects, which offer insights into the spiritual beliefs and traditions of indigenous peoples.
Cultural Halls: Exploring the World’s Diverse Cultures
The Field Museum’s Cultural Halls provide a window into the diverse cultures that populate our planet. Journey through Tibet and China, where you can explore traditional clothing and artifacts that reflect the rich heritage of these regions. Immerse yourself in the vibrant cultures of Africa, with exhibits showcasing the diverse traditions and lifestyles of different African communities.
One of the highlights of the Cultural Halls is the authentic 19th-century Māori Meeting House, Ruatepupuke II, from New Zealand. This beautifully carved structure offers a glimpse into the ancestral customs and beliefs of the Māori people. Additionally, the museum’s Northwest Coast Collections exhibit pays homage to the artistic and cultural traditions of the Kwakwakaʼwakw (Kwakiutl) people.
Geology Halls: A Journey into Earth’s Geological Wonders
The Grainger Hall of Gems is a treasure trove of dazzling gemstones and minerals from around the world. Marvel at the brilliance of diamonds, the rich colors of sapphires and emeralds, and the intricate patterns of opals. The hall also features a stunning Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass window, showcasing the fusion of art and geology.
For enthusiasts of Chinese jade, the Hall of Jades offers a comprehensive collection spanning 8,000 years of Chinese history. Discover the cultural significance of jade and admire the exquisite craftsmanship displayed in these ancient artifacts.
If you’re fascinated by meteorites, the Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies is a must-visit. This center houses a vast collection of fossil meteorites, providing scientists with valuable insights into the origins of our solar system and the processes that shape celestial bodies.
Interactive Experiences and Working Laboratories
At the Field Museum, learning is not limited to exhibits alone. Visitors can also engage in interactive experiences and witness real scientists at work in the museum’s working laboratories. Explore the DNA Discovery Center, where you can watch scientists extract DNA from various organisms and learn about the fascinating world of genetics.
For those interested in paleontology, the McDonald’s Fossil Prep Lab offers a unique opportunity to observe paleontologists as they prepare fossils for scientific study. Witness firsthand the delicate and meticulous work that goes into uncovering the secrets of ancient life.
The Regenstein Pacific Conservation Laboratory provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the conservation efforts carried out by the museum’s experts. Learn about the preservation and study of anthropological specimens from around the world, as well as the ongoing research that contributes to our understanding of different cultures and their material heritage.
Sue, the Tyrannosaurus Rex: A Fossil Icon
No visit to the Field Museum would be complete without encountering Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered. This iconic fossil, named after its discoverer Sue Hendrickson, stands as a testament to the awe-inspiring creatures that once roamed our planet. Marvel at the size and majesty of Sue, and learn about the life and times of this fearsome predator.
Scientific Collections: Repositories of Knowledge
Behind the scenes, the Field Museum houses extensive scientific collections that serve as valuable resources for researchers worldwide. With over 24 million specimens and artifacts, the museum’s collections encompass a wide range of disciplines, including biology, geology, anthropology, and archaeology.
These collections are meticulously curated and maintained by the museum’s professional staff, providing the basis for scientific research and exploration. From fossils and gemstones to cultural artifacts and biological specimens, the Field Museum’s collections offer a wealth of knowledge about the natural world and human history.
Plan Your Visit
The Field Museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, with the last entry at 4 pm. Please note that the museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The museum is conveniently located at 1400 S. Dusable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum’s ticketing counter. Membership options are also available for those who wish to enjoy unlimited access to the museum’s exhibitions and special events.
Before your visit, be sure to check the museum’s website for any updates on operating hours, special exhibitions, and educational programs. The Field Museum offers a range of educational opportunities, including guided tours, workshops, and interactive programs for visitors of all ages.
Connect with Nature and History
The Field Museum of Natural History invites you to embark on a journey of discovery, connecting with the wonders of the natural world and the stories of human history. With its captivating exhibitions, extensive scientific collections, and commitment to education, the museum serves as a beacon of knowledge and inspiration. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply curious about the world around you, the Field Museum offers a truly unforgettable experience. Plan your visit today and embark on a voyage of exploration and enlightenment.