Field Museum

Field Museum

"FMNH" redirects here. For the Florida Museum of Natural History, see FLMNH.
Field Museum of Natural History
Field Museum of Natural History.
Field Museum of Natural History
Location in central Chicago
Location 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL

41°51′58.6″N 87°37′1.34″W / 41.866278°N 87.6170389°W / 41.866278; -87.6170389Coordinates: 41°51′58.6″N 87°37′1.34″W / 41.866278°N 87.6170389°W / 41.866278; -87.6170389

Built 1921
Architect Daniel H. Burnham & Co.; Burnham Graham & Co.
Architectural style Classical Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 75000647 [1]
Added to NRHP September 5, 1975

The Field Museum of Natural History (shortened to Field Museum) is located in Chicago, IL in the US. It sits on Lake Shore Drive next to Lake Michigan, part of a scenic complex known as the Museum Campus Chicago. The museum collections contain over 24 million specimens,[2] of which only a small portion are ever on display. The president of the museum is Richard W. Lariviere.[3]

Some prized exhibits in the Field Museum include a large collection of dinosaur skeletons in the Evolving Planet exhibit, a comprehensive set of human cultural anthropology exhibits (with artifacts from ancient Egypt, the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Islands, and Tibet), a large and diverse taxidermy collection (with many large animals, including two prized African elephants and the infamous Lions of Tsavo featured in the 1996 movie The Ghost and the Darkness), the Ancient Americas exhibit devoted to a large collection of Native American artifacts, and Sue (the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton currently known).


The Field Museum was incorporated in the State of Illinois on September 16, 1893, as the Columbian Museum of Chicago with its purpose the "accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, and the preservation and exhibition of artifacts illustrating art, archaeology, science and history." The museum was originally housed in the World's Columbian Exposition's Palace of Fine Arts (which is today home to the Museum of Science and Industry). On October 31, 1893, the duck billed platypus was the first mammal that was brought to the museum and catalogued. In 1894, the museum's name was changed to the Field Columbian Museum and, in 1905, to the Field Museum of Natural History to honor the museum's first major benefactor, Marshall Field, and to better reflect its focus on natural history. In 1921, the museum moved from its original location to its present site on Chicago Park District property near downtown, where it is part of the lakefront Museum Campus that includes the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. From 1943 to 1966 the Museum was known as the Chicago Natural History Museum.[4] In 2006, the Field Museum was the number one cultural attraction in Chicago but surrendered the title in 2007 to the Shedd Aquarium.[5]

Permanent exhibitions

Many of the original exhibitions at the museum were from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.[6] Today the museum has permanent exhibitions that include:

  • Animal exhibits and dioramas such as Nature Walk, Mammals of Asia, and Mammals of Africa that allow visitors an up-close look at the diverse habitats that animals inhabit. Most notably featured are the infamous Lions of Tsavo featured in the 1996 movie The Ghost and the Darkness
  • The Grainger Hall of Gems and its large collection of diamonds and gems from around the world, and also includes a Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass window. The Hall of Jades focuses on Chinese jade artifacts spanning 8,000 years.
  • The Underground Adventure gives visitors a bugs-eye look at the world beneath their feet. Visitors can see what insects and soil look like from that size, while learning about the biodiversity of soil and the importance of healthy soil.
  • Inside Ancient Egypt offers a glimpse into what life was like for ancient Egyptians. Twenty-three human mummies are on display as well as many mummified animals. The exhibit features a tomb that visitors can enter, complete with 5,000-year-old hieroglyphs. There are also many interactive displays, for both children and adults, as well as a shrine to the cat goddess Sekhmet and her kinder, less hostile form, Bastet. A popular feature of the exhibit is the replica of the chapel in the tomb of Unis-Ankh, the son of Unas (the last pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty).
  • Evolving Planet follows the history and the evolution of life on Earth over 4 billion years, from the first organism to present-day life. Visitors can see how mass extinctions in Earth’s history helped shape all the organisms. There is also an expanded dinosaur hall, with dinosaurs from every era, as well as interactive displays.
  • The Ancient Americas displays 13,000 years of human ingenuity and achievement in the Western Hemisphere, where hundreds of diverse societies thrived long before the arrival of Europeans. In this large permanent exhibition visitors can learn the epic story of the peopling of these continents, from the Arctic to the tip of South America.
  • Working Laboratories
    • DNA Discovery Center: Visitors can watch real scientists extract DNA from a variety of organisms. Museum goers can also speak to a live scientist through the glass every day and ask them any questions about DNA.
    • McDonald's Fossil Prep Lab: The public can watch as paleontologists prepare real fossils for study.
    • The Regenstein Laboratory: 1,600-square-foot (150 m2) conservation and collections facility. Visitors can watch as conservators work to preserve and study anthropological specimens from all over the world.

Other exhibits include sections on Tibet and China, where visitors can view traditional clothing. There is also an exhibit on life in Africa, where visitors can learn about the many different cultures on the continent and an exhibit where visitors may "visit" several Pacific Islands. The museum houses an authentic 19th century Māori Meeting House, Ruatepupuke II,[7] from Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand. There are also a few vintage Mold-A-Rama machines that create injection-molded plastic dinosaurs collected by Chicago children.

Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex

Main article: Sue (dinosaur)

On May 17, 2000, the Field Museum unveiled Sue, the most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil yet discovered. Sue is 42 feet (13 m) long, stands 13 feet (4 m) high at the hips and is 67 million years old. The fossil was named after the person who discovered it, Sue Hendrickson, and is commonly referred to as female, though the fossil's actual sex is unknown.[8] The original skull, located elsewhere in the museum, was not mounted to the body due to the difficulties in examining the specimen 13 feet off the ground, and for nominal aesthetic reasons (the replica doesn't require a steel support under the mandible). An examination of the bones revealed that Sue died at age 28, a record for the fossilized remains of a T. rex.


The library at the Field Museum was organized in 1893 to meet the research needs of the museum's scientific staff, visiting researchers, students, and members of the general public interested in natural history and are an essential resource for the Museum’s research, exhibition development and educational programs. The 275,000 volumes of the Main Research Collections concentrate on biological systematics, environmental and evolutionary biology, anthropology, botany, geology, archaeology, museology and related subjects. Some highlights of the Field Museum Library include:

  • Ayer Collection: The private, chiefly ornithological, collection of Edward E. Ayer, the first president of the museum. The collection contains virtually all the important works in history of ornithology and is especially rich in color-illustrated works.
  • Laufer Collection: The working collection of Dr. Berthold Laufer, America’s first sinologist and Curator of Anthropology until his death in 1934. The Library houses approximately 7,000 volumes in Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, and numerous Western languages on anthropology, archaeology, religion, science, and travel.
  • Photo Archives: A compilation of over 250,000 images in the areas of anthropology, botany, geology, and zoology. The collection also documents the history and architecture of the museum, its exhibitions, staff and scientific expeditions. Two important collections from the Photo Archives are now available via the Illinois Digital Archives (IDA): [2].
  • Karl P. Schmidt Memorial Herpetological Library: Named for Karl Patterson Schmidt. A research library that contains over 2,000 herpetological books and an extensive reprint collection.[9]

Research and education

As an educational institution, the Field Museum offers multiple opportunities for both informal and more structured public learning. Exhibits remain the primary means of informal education, but throughout its history the Museum has supplemented this approach with innovative educational programs. The Harris Loan Program, for example, begun in 1912, provides educational outreach to children, offering artifacts, specimens, audiovisual materials, and activity kits to Chicago area schools. The Department of Education, begun in 1922, offers a challenging program of classes, lectures, field trips, museum overnights and special events for families, adults and children. Professional symposia and lectures, such as the annual A. Watson Armour III Spring Symposium, present the latest scientific results to the international scientific community as well as the public at large.

The Museum's curatorial and scientific staff in the departments of Zoology conducts basic research in the fields of systematic biology and anthropology, and also has responsibility for collections management, and collaboration in public programs with the Departments of Education and Exhibits. Since its founding the Field Museum has been an international leader in evolutionary biology and paleontology, and archaeology and ethnography, and has long maintained close links, including joint teaching, students, seminars, with local universities—particularly the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Field has recently adopted production of the popular YouTube channel The Brain Scoop, hiring its host Emily Graslie full-time as 'Chief Curiosity Correspondent'.


The Museum publishes four peer-reviewed monograph series issued under the collective title Fieldiana, devoted to anthropology, botany, geology and zoology.[10] Monographs in these series are accessible via the Internet Archive.[11]

In popular media

In film

The Field Museum of Natural History served as the setting in the horror film The Relic (1997). Many parts of the film, though, were created with computer graphics or with sets that bear only a passing similarity to the actual museum.

It was used in several scenes for the Kevin Bacon movie She's Having a Baby (1988).

A chase scene in the Keanu Reeves thriller Chain Reaction (1996) combined the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, located several miles to the south, into one museum.

In print

A portion of Dead Beat (2005), the seventh novel of The Dresden Files series, takes place at the museum. In one of the best-remembered moments of the series, Harry Dresden revives Sue the T-rex as a zombie and rides her into battle against a powerful necromancer.


See also

Chicago portal


External links

  • The Field Museum
  • Field Museum photo archives