Sunday, May 08, 2016

Behind the Scenes at The Field Museum

Sunday, May 08, 2016


I've always been curious about the world and the people within it. My favorite thing to do when I was in high school was to go to the book store to people-watch. To this day, I'm still the quiet one, preferring to observe rather than engage. In a group setting, I'm the one listening the majority of the time, while others fight to be heard.

My sense of curiosity of the world around us has stemmed into my modern-day love of natural history. I find it so important to study and observe the past, to learn from it, to benefit our future. My feet are placed within two dimensions: 1. my job during the day where I work events in a natural history museum, surrounded by the world and it's past, and 2. my job for a marketing and branding company, where we heavily use digital media and technology to market our clients. I'm my own paradox of the past and the future, at the same time.


One of my favorite exhibits is our hall of taxidermy dioramas. Many of our taxidermy comes from the late 1800's and this style of taxidermy was pioneered by Carl Akeley, who was first a sculptor. We have some of his bronze sculptures in the museum as well, and I can definitely see his skill of molding each muscle underneath the taxidermy animals.

Some of the taxidermy animals in our hall are even holotypes! I've been volunteering in the Division of Insects during my lunch breaks, and when organizing specimen for loan research, I'll come across holotypes and paratypes, and it's incredible that we have these specimen available for scientists around the world. This link helped me understand "types" better once I learned about them.



Another favorite exhibit of mine is the Northwest Coast and Arctic Peoples exhibit. Many of the pieces in this collection are leftovers from the World's Fair of 1893, which is how the collection for The Field Museum began! All of these artifacts were brought from all over the world for people to discover at the fair. At the end of the fair, many items were left behind. Thankfully, a museum was created.

The items in this exhibit are so rich with culture and beauty. Growing up in New York, and later, Florida, I felt that in school we didn't discuss the cultures of the northwest all that much. The museum has a collection of stunning totem poles, so immense that they stretch toward the dark ceiling and you feel so small, thinking that someone created that with their hands. It's so humbling. Whenever I need a quiet moment, standing under the totem poles is a great way to find peace. Many of our totem poles come from Bella Coola, which is an area I never learned about in school. To know that this village existed, and is so rich with history, and yet isn't discussed much, it makes the world feel so immense.

At the end of this exhibit, there is a re-creation of a Pawnee Earth Lodge. I love taking a seat in this lodge and listening to the docents talk about how these huts were really used. In the center, when you look up, the museum created smalls stars in the night sky. It's truly immersive. It inspired me to create this blanket.


Being that our museum is so old, we have many exhibits that were put together decades ago. Their age shows in their fonts and design. The font above is found in our geology collection of meteors, stones, metals, etc. I quite like discovering parts of the museum that seem like they are from another time. We have a hall of plants that feature plants in wooden cases. The replica plants are all made by hand from wax. It's such an art!



Let's go behind the scenes. One of the first things I saw behind the scenes when I began working at the museum was our colony of dermestid beetles. Dermestid beetles eat the muscle tissues from carcasses. This room of beetles has two doors to enter, that way, the beetles don't get out and potentially damage our collections. This room is located in the Division of Birds, who primarily use this room to clean delicate bird bones, and any mammal bones that need to be cleaned. It's a much more efficient process than if the scientists were to use chemicals. I like to think of the beetles as my coworkers.


We also have drawers and drawers of specimen, housed in our collection for past and future research. There are three public museum floors, and in addition, there are two more floors both above and below those floors, just for storing our collections. I'm not sure if there is anyone in the museum that has actually seen each and every artifact in our collection.

Today is Mother's Day and I can't wait for my mom to visit this summer! I'm really missing her - especially today - and I'm so looking forward to exploring Chicago with her while the weather is nice. For today, after I finish some work for my marketing job, I plan on packing a picnic with S and Mort and having my own little Mother's Day celebration with my fur baby. We have a community garden on our block with a picnic table, so we plan on walking over there with Mort, some goodies, and a bottle of a Belgian Style Wild Ale called Madame Rose. It was a gift from a friend, who works at Goose Island, and he recently brought us into the brewhouse to tour where the make the beer. My favorite? The quarantined room of wild yeast!

Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there. xo

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