When visiting Chicago, one of my favorite places to go is the Museum of Science and Industry. It is one of the largest science museums in the world, boasting over 35,000 artifacts and almost 14 acres of displays, you cannot see everything in only one day. It offers after school programs for kids, teen volunteer programs, and has free general admission on several days throughout the year.
The beautiful building which houses the museum was built in 1893 as part of the World Columbian Exposition and is the only one of the buildings still standing from this event. The museum opened on June 19, 1933. It is one of the largest museums in the world whose primary focus is on technology and the sciences. The exhibits are stunning, and no matter what your interests or age, there is something for you to discover. There are many permanent exhibits, the oldest of which is “The Coal Mine”. This exhibit is original to the museum and has been on display since 1933. It takes you down into a replica of an actual Illinois coal mine. You ride the hoist down into the mine, and take a tour of the various stages of coal mining, from the safety measures involved in working a mine to a geological crosscut of the area where you can see coal seams in the shale, complete with fossils.
The U-505 exhibit features the actual German submarine that was captured off the coast of West Africa during World War II. You can tour the submarine, experience just how the crew lived and worked in this small, cramped space. It is a fascinating tour for history buffs, but for those with Claustrophobia, this exhibit is a challenge. In 1954 this became a permanent exhibit at the museum and was dedicated as a war memorial. In 1989 it became a National Historic Landmark.
One of my favorite exhibits is Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle. This Miniature castle was donated to the museum by silent film star Colleen Moore in 1949. This enchanted castle goes way beyond anything a child could even dream of in a “doll house”. Designed by one of Hollywood’s set designers of the time, it features chairs encrusted with diamonds, rubies, and other precious jewels, a set of Royal Doulton miniature china, one of only two sets ever made with the royal crest on it. It has the smallest bible ever printed, and miniature statues over 2000 years old. It is a teeming with fairy tale references, from the Three Little Pigs to Cinderella. If that is not enough for you, it contains murals painted by Walt Disney himself for the castle.
You will also find exhibits such as "Networld”, which immerse you into the internet in a way you have never been before. You will become an avatar and travel throughout the information superhighway. You will learn about the internet from its inception to where it is today. “Fast Forward” is an exhibit that highlights new technology and technology that is currently being developed by some of the world’s top inventors in their own words. “Smart Home” is a newly renovated exhibit that highlights how we can integrate the newest technology and green thinking into our lives and how to better utilize our own environment.
For kids of all ages there is the “Toymaker 3000” which takes you through an interactive manufacturing process in which robots make toy tops. There is also the ”Swiss Jolly Ball”, the world’s largest pinball machine, and “the Great Train Story” which features more than 30 miniature trains running on a large track while learning how railroads impact our lives on a daily basis. You can even learn how sound travels in the “Whispering Gallery”.
You can take a walk through “Yesterday’s Main Street” and see how we lived in the early 1900‘s, then continue on through the years until you get to the “Suited for Space” and the “Henry Crown Space Center”, which highlights our first journeys into space and where we will be headed in the future.
These are just some of the many exhibits there are in this wondrous tribute to human ingenuity. It is a fun learning experience which will draw you in with its interactive exhibits and you will walk away with a new appreciation for technology, imagination, and the human spirit.