This past weekend, H and I spent our rainy and grey Saturday afternoon exploring Chicago’s Field Museum. We live very close to the museum, and the building is so beautiful that we’ve been talking about visiting the museum since we moved to the city. After five years of living in Washington, DC, we grew pretty accustomed to free museums, so we’ve been a little slower to visit museums, aquariums, and other cool places in Chicago than we would like because of the hefty price tags. This weekend, H’s work had a deal with the museum where all employees of his company could enter the museums free with their families. We got on the gravy train.
It may have been the weather, but while the museum collection was expansive, impressive, and incredibly detailed I found the history of evolution and dinosaur exhibits a little boring. I couldn’t read a lot of the exhibits because the speed at which the crowd was moving was not conducive to the small, detailed text presented. What I was able to read belonged in a tenth-grade biology textbook, not on the wall of a huge and beautiful science museum. For example, while I’m sure the difference between asexual reproduction and sexual reproduction is really important to science or whatever, I don’t know how effective exhibits describing every stage of cell reproduction can really be for a crowd of people, especially when it’s a little dark and hard to read everything.
We moved quickly through the boring parts of evolution (you know, the tiny bits becoming slightly larger tiny bits) because what we really wanted to see were the dinosaurs. H LOVES dinosaurs and he knows everything about them — such as how many fingers a tyrannosaurus rex had.
In case you are wondering, the answer is two. Because of this, most children’s books are not acceptable gifts for our friend’s children because the dinosaurs depicted in the books are not accurately portrayed.
The text displays on the exhibits still weren’t all that interesting, but the dinosaurs themselves were AWESOME.
There were also some pretty cool non-dinosaurs at the end of the Ice Age section. And while I wish I knew the proper terms or names of many of these cool-looking skeletons, I just didn’t learn very much here. It was too hard to read everything and so I just snapped a few shots of cool bones and we moved on.
However, the Field Museum’s exhibit on Ancient Egypt was wonderful and I absolutely loved it. The museum built a replica of the tomb of Unis-ankh, who was the son of a fifth dynasty Pharaoh. They recreated the tomb using original wall carvings in several places. The viewing path was forced and relatively narrow, giving us a real shot at reading the information included in the exhibits. The structure was built to showcase the three-story layout of the tomb, so we climbed up and down stairs to see various chambers of the tomb from different levels. From the top, you looked down through a peep-hole to see a mummified body below, and from the bottom you could view the same mummy head-on.
I didn’t take any photos here because it felt inappropriate — like we were really walking through a burial site and the bodies deserved respect. We saw real mummies, replica mummies, canopic jars and artwork and hieroglyphics — it was a great experience. I would return to the Field Museum just to re-visit the Inside Ancient Egypt tomb, and perhaps it would be a little easier to engage the other materials on a weekday than it was during our Saturday afternoon visit.
Once we made it back to our warm apartment, made some tea and turned on some college football, we were pretty glad we had the opportunity to see the Field Museum up-close and personal. It wasn’t the best museum ever, but it was still pretty okay.