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  • Field Museum of Natural HistoryField Museum of Natural History Chicago, Illinois
    The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois is located on Lake Shore Drive next to Lake Michigan and is one of the museums in the Museum Campus Chicago complex housing over 21 million specimens; although not all are on display. A few of the most prominent exhibits include; Sue, the biggest and most complete tyrannosaurus rex on display anywhere in the world, a huge collection of dinosaurs in the Evolving Planet display, a great amount of Native American artifacts, an enormous and diverse collection of taxidermy items that showcase many big animals, that include two prized African elephants and the world renown lions of Tsavo, that were shown in the movie made in 1996, the Ghost and the Darkness, and a very exciting number of human cultural anthropology displays that include artifacts from Tibet, the Pacific northwest and ancient Egypt. The museum started in 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago with the express purpose of getting and teaching the knowledge, preservation and displaying of artifacts that pertain to the fields of science, art, history and archaeology. In 2006, it had become the city main attraction, but was outpaced by the Shedd Aquarium the next year. The library housed at the museum was also started in 1893, to meet the needs of the scientific community, and has become one of the finest resources of biological systematics, archaeology, botany, environmental and evolutionary biology, museology, geology, anthropology and related subjects. The 275,000 volumes of the main research collections contains all these important subjects, and there are three indispensable collections in this realm; the Mary W. Runnells Rare Book Room, the Institutional Archives and the Photo Archives. Other highlights include; the Ayer Collection, the Laufer Collection, and the Photo Archives.  In May of 2000, the museum uncovered Sue, the best preserved and most complete t-rex that has been discovered so far. She is 42 feet long, 13 feet high at the hips and is estimated to be 67 million years old. Sue Hendrickson was the paleontologist that found the skeleton, and so the fossil was named after her. The museum has been and will remain an educational facility that offers many chances for informal and formal instruction. Although the main means of teaching about the history of these fabulous relics is the showing of exhibits, all through the history of the museum, education has stayed important. The Harris Loan Program started in 1912 giving the communities school children an outreach program that offers lectures, artifacts, specimens, audio/visual materials and activity kits to the Chicago area schools. The numerous permanent displays are for the benefit of the public and these included the animal specimens on exhibit like the Mammals of Africa, Mammals of Asia, Nature Walk and other marvelous displays. By perusing these fantastic displays, the curatorial and scientific staff members give basic research in the fields of anthropology and systematic biology and collaborates with the Department of Education and Exhibits. Since the beginning, the museum has been a world leader in ethnography, archaeology, evolutionary biology and paleontology and has been a close partner with local universities like the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. In the Grainger Hall of Gems, there are huge collections of gems and diamonds from across the globe, which also houses a Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass window; while the Hall of Jades highlights over 8000 years of Chinese jade relics. The spectacular Underground Adventure allows visitors a bugs-eye view of the world that thrives below our feet and envision what the soil and insects look like at that size. Inside Ancient Egypt, you can see what life was like for the ancient Egyptians and marvel at the 23 mummies that are shown. This exhibit contains a tomb that you can enter and view the 5000 year hieroglyphs, as well as many other exciting and amazing artifacts. The Evolving Planet exhibit gives you the history and evolution of life on this planet that covers 4 billion years, with a large dinosaur hall that showcases dinosaurs from every age. The Ancient Americas display allows you to travel through 13,000 years of human thought and achievements in the western hemisphere, where hundreds of diverse peoples lived here long before the arrival of the first European. The magnificent dioramas display show many kinds of animals from hawks to tigers, and highlights the two lions known as the Ghost and the Darkness. There is so much more to learn about here, to see and discover for yourselves, and more information than could possibly fit on one page of the internet. This is one of those places in this country that has to be seen to be believed and thoroughly enjoyed.

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  • Art Institute of ChicagoArt Institute of Chicago, Illinois
    The Art Institute of Chicago, AIC, contains one of the world's most wonderful collections of impressionist and post-impressionist art and is considered an encyclopedic fine art museum. The diverse collections include; modern and contemporary artworks, old master art, European and American decorative arts, American artworks and Asian works. The museum is located in the Chicago Landmark Historic Michigan Boulevard District of Chicago, Illinois and is connected to the School of Art Institute of Chicago. Occupying a million square feet of space, it is the second biggest art museum in the country with the Met of New York being bigger. The expansive and magnificent collection contains over 5000 years of man's expressions that come from cultures around the world and involves over 260,000 beautiful works of art. It has become famous for its impressionist and post-impressionist works, as well as American paintings. Among these impressive works are 30 paintings by Claude Monet, that include 6 of his well known haystacks and many water lilies; plus works by Paul Cezanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, George Seurat, Gustave Caillebotte, Vincent Van Gogh, Grant Wood and Edward Hopper. One very special feature is the Touch Gallery that has been specifically designed for those that cannot see well, allowing you to envision the works of art through the sense of touch, with descriptive plates written in Braille. There is also a room on the lower level that is called the Thorne Miniature Rooms that are 1:12 scaled so that the fabulous interiors of architectural and furniture styles can be enjoyed, that have evolved from the middle ages to the 1930s. In the decorative arts galleries, there are furniture items that were designed by Charles and Ray Eames and Frank Lloyd Wright; while the Greek, Roman and Egyptian galleries house mummy and mummy case of Paankhenamun, with many gold and silver coins. You can wander through the Terra Collection, the African-American Art Collection, libraries and much more to pique your curiosity and wonder.

January 11, 2011