Friday, July 16, 2010

Adventures at the Field Museum!

As a summer intern for HI-Chicago, I have had the luxury of exploring the massive city and its wealth of fun-filled experiences at my own pace- attending festivals and concerts, window shopping all types of stores, and eating at various interesting places along the way. However, upon realizing my summer stay was soon to expire, I noticed I had yet to embrace one of Chicago’s greatest assets- its fantastic selection of museums! So this past Monday I embarked on my first museum mission to the Field Museum of Natural History.

The Field Museum is located in Chicago’s stunning lake-side Museum Campus, which also houses the Shedd Aquarium and Alder Planetarium. (The path along the lake in this area provides an absolutely stunning view of the city, especially in the evening). The museum building opened in 1921 and operates under the mission of the “accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, and the preservation and exhibition of objects illustrating art, archaeology, science and history”. To achieve this purpose, the Field Museum plays host to several elaborate and informative exhibits that feature archeological wonders such as the Sue, the most complete T-Rex dinosaur ever unearthed, as well as a diverse collection of artifacts to represent the history of nature, animals, plants and rocks. The museum also features sectors such as the DNA Discovery Center, Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, and Climate Change. Yet, I myself didn’t even manage to make it to any of those exhibits, for I was too wrapped up in my first stop at the Ancient Americas.

I chose to visit the museum of the second Monday of the month, which conveniently happens to be free general admission day… great news! As I climbed the grand marble steps and waited to receive a hand stamp, I realized that I would be spending the next couple of hours navigating through swarms of young children trying to touch, push, and squeal their way through the halls. Yet, one should not be deterred by such activity, for these children are merely the pawns of good-intentioned parents! So alas, I found myself smiling patiently and enjoying the company, a demeanor (or perhaps a warning) I recommend to anyone choosing to visit a Chicago museum on its designated free day. But alas, my fellow museum-goers quickly lost importance as the magnificent new permanent exhibition called The Ancient Americas swept me along its information-laden corridors. I was taken on a journey through 13,000 years of human development, through hundreds of diverse (both in culture and time period) societies all throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Within this 19,000-square-foot area, I witnessed replica villages and empires and all they included, from archaic bowls and plates to intensive social structures that are remarkably similar to those we today find in great cities like Chicago! Thanks to the museum’s very thorough and interesting presentation and analysis of history, I not only reviewed all my years of history class, but also gained a new appreciation for human ingenuity and survival throughout the ages. I especially enjoyed the Powerful Leaders section where I investigated the rise of the Hopewell people, a civilization flourishing in our very own Mid-Western region between 200 BCE and 500 CE. It was exciting to learn about not only their well-developed trade system, but also that it was happening in the very area of Chicago. Indeed, I experienced a heightened sense of curiosity and enthusiasm as I explored the exhibit, something that I just could not attain as a sixth grader more concerned with soccer practices and Four Square games. So I encourage anyone visiting Chicago to venture over to Museum Campus for a delightful view of the city, and more importantly, a great educational experience unlike anything you learned in history class!

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