The Crown Jewel of the Museum Campus: The Field Museum


One of the largest museums of its kind in the world, the Field Museum houses such an enormous collection that only a small fraction of its holdings are on view at any one time.  The rest are used by researchers or held in storage vaults under the museum and in its neighboring building across the quad.

But all that is the serious, formal stuff.  What I love about this place is far simpler:

The atrium.  The top image is of the central atrium lobby, which is vast and lit by skylights.  This view is from when we entered through the south doors; the admission lines are on the left.


The ceiling, far overhead, has interesting light fixtures hanging just below it.  After the museum closes, they host all manner of events from weddings to corporate dinners.  It’s expensive to run a museum this big and they do an excellent job at fundraising.


The Maori Meeting House is fascinating.  For you armchair travelers, click on the link to see the Field Museum’s profile of it and go from there to other exhibits in the museum, virtually.

The reason I like the meeting house is that it has a sense of living history to it.  If you venture inside, shoes are prohibited, so there is a front porch where patrons sit and take care of that.  It’s covered with hundreds of shell eyes that represent the ancestors, so it feels like the house is looking at you.  Even though the room its in is large and has a vaulted ceiling, so there’s a lot of echoing noise, there’s a sense of stillness and peace around the meeting house itself.

Among other things, you can walk down inside a pyramid, visit a Pawnee Earth Lodge, and one of my favorites, see actual wooden totem poles.


There are many articles on the Field Museum and its history, for those of you curious about it.  There’s great material about the founding of the museum right on their website, here.

Tomorrow, we head back to the north side and visit one of the neighborhood’s landmark restaurants, Gulliver’s.

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4 Replies to “The Crown Jewel of the Museum Campus: The Field Museum”

  1. Love the Field Museum! I think I was probably an odd child, as I liked the Museum of Science and Industry more as a kid, but then again what girl can pass up Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle? ;D

    I wrote a little bit about the Field Museum today, but I’m most curious to know what you think about the takeover of Mr. Field’s department store by Macy’s!

    1. I like MSI okay, but that one’s tough because my first love is the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Granted, that’s hard to compare because it’s one of the top five science museums in the world. If you ever get a chance to go, reserve tickets ahead of time for the Tactile Dome. You’ll be glad you did.

      The Field’s store is a delicate subject because my coauthor’s day job is with the company that bought them. I used to feel strongly in the negative, but she made some pointed remarks about shopping there more if we wanted it to stay successful, and that’s hard to argue with. What I will say is that the department store business is getting squeezed from both sides: the internet on the one hand, and big box stores on the other. It’s a very tough business in which to try and make a company.

      I do, though, continue to refer to Willis Tower as Sears, until I heard the owner of Willis (I think it’s actually Mr. Willis, does that sound right?) say, I paid for it, I get to name it, and that was hard to argue with too.

      But, I draw the line at Comisky. I utterly refuse to call it “The Cell.” 🙂

  2. I got the impression that Willis just paid to put their name on the building, kind of like Donald Drumpf does… and if that’s the case, then BAH HUMBUG to them both! They didn’t build it; they don’t deserve the recognition, no matter how much they paid.

    1. Perhaps. I suppose that I think of it like this: I’m an author, yeah? I do lots of promo. If I have an opportunity to put “Noon & Wilder” on something, that would be kind of cool, yeah? So I guess I feel that Willis gets to, as well. And as much as I loathe Drumpf (and I love that you call him that too), I can’t argue that he is a real estate developer and has coordinated the buildings he has.

      On the other hand, that eyesore he perpetrated here in Chicago does not endear the man to me – nor many of us here in the city.

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