Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago
The Field Museum of Natural History (abbreviated FMNH) is located in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It sits on Lake Shore Drive next to Lake Michigan, part of a scenic complex known as the Museum Campus Chicago. The museum collections contain over 21 million specimens, of which only a small portion are ever on display.
Some prized exhibits in The Field Museum include:
- Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus currently known.
- A comprehensive set of human cultural anthropology exhibits, including artifacts from ancient Egypt, the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Islands, and Tibet.
- A large and diverse taxidermy collection, featuring many large animals, including two prized African elephants and the infamous Lions of Tsavo, featured in the 1996 movie The Ghost and the Darkness.
- A large collection of dinosaurs in the Evolving Planet exhibit (formerly Life Over Time).
- A large collection of Native American artifacts. The main exhibit with these artifacts reopened as Ancient Americas in March 2007.
The Field Museum was incorporated in the State of Illinois on September 16, 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago with its purpose the "accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, and the preservation and exhibition of artifacts illustrating art, archaeology, science and history." The museum was originally housed in the World's Columbian Exposition's Palace of Fine Arts (which is today home to the Museum of Science and Industry). In 1905, the museum's name was changed to Field Museum of Natural History to honor the museum's first major benefactor, Marshall Field, and to better reflect its focus on natural history. In 1921, the museum moved from its original location to its present site on Chicago Park District property near downtown, where it is part of the lakefront Museum Campus that includes the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. In 2006, the Field Museum was the number one cultural attraction in Chicago but surrendered the title in 2007 to the Shedd Aquarium.
The Library at The Field Museum was organized in 1893 to meet the research needs of the museum's scientific staff, visiting researchers, students and members of the general public interested in natural history. The Library’s collections are an essential resource for the Museum’s research, exhibition development and educational programs. The 275,000 volumes of the Main Research Collections concentrate on biological systematics, environmental and evolutionary biology, anthropology, botany, geology, archaeology, museology and related subjects. Three special collections are an indispensable part of these holdings: the Mary W. Runnells Rare Book Room, the Photo Archives and the Institutional Archives. These collections document and preserve the development of the Museum and its collections, and the history of its expedition, exhibition and educational programs. Some highlights at the Field Museum Library include:
- "Ayer Collection" – private collection of Edward E. Ayer, first President of the Museum, chiefly ornithological. Collection contains virtually all the important works in history of ornithology and is especially rich in color-illustrated works.
- "Laufer Collection" – working collection of Dr. Berthold Laufer, America’s first sinologist and Curator of Anthropology until his death in 1934. The Library houses approximately 7,000 volumes in Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan and numerous western languages, covering the subjects of: anthropology, archaeology, religion, science and travel.
- "Photo Archives" – comprises over 250,000 images in the areas of Anthropology, Botany, Geology, and Zoology. The collection also documents the history and architecture of the Museum, its exhibitions, staff and scientific expeditions. Two important collections from the Photo Archives are now available via the Illinois Digital Archives (IDA): World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 from The Field Museum and Urban Landscapes from The Field Museum. In April 2009, the Photo Archives became part of the Flickr Commons .
Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex
On May 17, 2000, the Field Museum unveiled Sue, the most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil yet discovered. Sue is 42 feet (13 m) long, stands 13 feet (4 m) high at the hips and is 67 million years old. The fossil was named Sue after the paleontologist who found it—Sue Hendrickson. The fossil's actual gender is unknown, although because she was named after Hendrickson, Sue is commonly referred to as female. She is a permanent feature at The Field Museum. Sue's body is located on the main floor in the Stanley Field Hall. Her skull was too heavy to be mounted on the rest of the body and is located in a case on the second floor balcony above her skeleton. A skull replica is mounted on Sue's body. From the rings in the bones, Sue was estimated to be about 29 years of age at the time of her death. Sue and her juvenile counterpart, Jane, give Illinois two important Tyrannosaurus rex fossils.
Research and education
As an educational institution, the Field Museum offers multiple opportunities for both informal and more structured public learning. Exhibits remain the primary means of informal education, but throughout its history the Museum has supplemented this approach with innovative educational programs. The Harris Loan Program, for example, begun in 1912, provides educational outreach to children, offering artifacts, specimens, audiovisual materials, and activity kits to Chicago area schools. The Department of Education, begun in 1922, offers a challenging program of classes, lectures, field trips, museum overnights and special events for families, adults and children. Professional symposia and lectures, such as the annual A. Watson Armour III Spring Symposium, present the latest scientific results to the international scientific community as well as the public at large.
The Museum's curatorial and scientific staff in the departments of Anthropology, Botany, Geology, and Zoology conducts basic research in the fields of systematic biology and anthropology, and also has responsibility for collections management, and collaboration in public programs with the Departments of Education and Exhibits. Since its founding the Field Museum has been an international leader in evolutionary biology and paleontology, and archaeology and ethnography, and has long maintained close links, including joint teaching, students, seminars, with local universities—particularly the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago
There are many permanent exhibits located at the Field Museum for the public to enjoy. Many animal specimens are on display in exhibits like Nature Walk, Mammals of Asia, Mammals of Africa, and several other exhibits. Through these exhibits, visitors can get an up-close look at the diverse habitats that animals inhabit.
The Grainger Hall of Gems features a large collection of diamonds and gems from around the world, and also includes a Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass window. The Hall of Jades focuses on Chinese Jade artifacts spanning 8,000 years.
The Underground Adventure gives visitors a bugs-eye look at the world beneath their feet. They will get to see what insects and soil look like from that size. Visitors will learn about the soil's biodiversity and the importance of healthy soil. The scale of the exhibit is 100 times larger than normal size.
Inside Ancient Egypt offers a glimpse into what life was like for ancient Egyptians. Twenty-three human mummies are on display, as well as many mummified animals. The exhibit features a tomb that visitors can enter, complete with 5,000-year-old hieroglyphs. There are also many interactive displays, for both children and adults, as well as a shrine to the cat Goddess Bastet. A popular feature of the exhibit is the chapel from the original tomb of Unis-Ankh, the son of the Pharaoh Unas, the last Pharaoh of the 5th dynasty. The exhibit is a re-creation of his mastaba which was originally located in Saqqara.
Evolving Planet – Throughout this exhibition, visitors will see both the history and the evolution of life on Earth over a span of 4 billion years, from the first organism to present-day life. Visitors can see how mass extinctions in Earth’s history helped shape all the organisms. There is also an expanded dinosaur hall, with dinosaurs from every era, as well as interactive displays.
The Ancient Americas – Takes visitors on a journey through 13,000 years of human ingenuity and achievement in the Western Hemisphere, where hundreds of diverse societies thrived long before the arrival of Europeans. In this large permanent exhibition visitors can learn the epic story of the peopling of these continents, from the Arctic to the tip of South America.
Dioramas – Visitors can see many animals including everything from tigers to hawks. This area also features the man-eating Lions of Tsavo, featured in the 1996 movie The Ghost and the Darkness.
DNA Discovery Center – Visitors can watch real scientists extract DNA from a variety of organisms. Museum goers can also speak to a live scientist through the glass everyday and ask them any questions about DNA.
McDonald's Fossil Prep Lab– the public can watch as paleontologists prepare real fossils for study.
The Regenstein Laboratory – 1600 sqft conservation and collections facility. Visitors can watch as conservators work to preserve and study anthropological specimens from all over the world.
Other exhibits include sections on Tibet and China, where visitors can view traditional clothing. There is also an exhibit on life in Africa, where visitors can learn about the many different cultures on the continent and an exhibit where visitors may 'visit' several Pacific Islands. The Museum houses an authentic 19th century Māori Meeting House, Ruatepupuke II, from Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand.
There are also a few vintage Mold-A-Rama machines that create injection-molded plastic dinosaurs collected by Chicago children.
The Museum publishes four peer-reviewed monograph series issued under the collective title Fieldiana, devoted to anthropology, botany, geology and zoology. Monographs in these series are accessible via the Internet Archive.
The Field Museum of Natural History served as the setting in the 1997 horror film The Relic. Many parts of the film, though, were created with computer graphics or with sets that bear only a passing similarity to the actual museum.
It was used in several scenes for the Kevin Bacon movie She's Having a Baby.
A chase scene in the 1996 Keanu Reeves thriller Chain Reaction combined the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, located several miles to the south, as one museum.
- List of museums and cultural institutions in Chicago