Recently my husband and I spent a few days in Chicago and of course, being the science nuts that we are, had to spend a day at the world famous Field Museum. For a little background: the museum opened with the World’s Fair Columbian Exposition in 1893 and was originally intended to be a temporary exhibit as part of the fair. However, by 1890, Chicago’s leaders began discussing the possibility of creating a permanent exhibit. Originally proposed as the Columbian Museum of Chicago, prior to opening the museum was renamed the Field Museum after it’s greatest benefactor, Chicago businessman, Marshall Field, who donated $1,000,000 to the cause.
An early picture of the museum prior to development of the surrounding Grant Park.
Here is the main hall of the museum viewed from the second story, with the world famous T-rex, Sue, taking center stage.
From left to right and top to bottom: the first image is of Sue’s original cranial fossil. The display of Sue in the other two images are replicas, a usual practice in museums to protect the original fossils from stress and damage. Sue is the largest most complete T-rex found to date, although it’s uncertain whether Sue truly was female. (The fossil is simply named after the paleontologist who found her, Sue Hendrickson.) Sue is also the most expensive dinosaur fossil to date, having been auctioned off for $7.6 million.
My husband, Manny, illustrating just how tiny Sue’s arms truly were.
The primitive tetrapods, Eryops and Seymouria, are displayed within the first image. The pre-mammalian synapsids, Edaphosaurus and Lycaenops, a type of gorgonopsid, are on the right-hand side.
The Field Museum had an excellent dinosaur hall. Above is a Herrerasaurus; a Daspletosaurus, a smaller T-rex cousin; and a Dromaeosaur, a type of raptor.
From right to left, top to bottom: a Parasaurolophus, a type of hadrosaur; a Stegosaur; a Triceratops; and a juvenile, Maiasaurus.
An incredible Plesiosaur vertebra that has been permineralized with silicate (a process known as “silicification”) resulting in an opaline appearance; next, a gigantic (3’+) Ichthyosaur skull from Lyme Regis (my favorite!); and a model of an Archeopteryx, a transitional form between dinosaurs and birds.
In the background, you can see the ancient whale ancestor, Basilosaurus, and in the foreground the earlier Rodhocetus. Read more about ancient whale ancestors in my previous blog, The Walking Whales.
A bit of our own human history: Australopithecus afarensis (aka Lucy), Homo neandertalensis, and Homo ergaster.
Above are animals that lived up until the recent Ice Age: a short-faced bear (Arctodus simus) (he was HUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGEEE!!!!), a Smilodon (saber-toothed cat), and a giant beaver (Castoroides ohioensis).
These two taxidermied African elephants shown above have been on exhibit in the main hall since 1909 and were probably the first glimpses many people had of elephants. They truly were giant examples of male African elephants and must’ve astounded viewers in the early 20th century.
Well, that was our trip, folks. The Field Museum was excellent and is well worth an outing if you’re in Chicago. The aquarium is also directly next door so why not make a day of it?
We also recommend Chicago style pizza. Giordano’s was DELICIOUS! 😉