The Field Museum here in Chicago must rate as one of the planet’s greatest collections of exhibits of natural history. Several guides along with the IgUgo editorial team visited here on a warm Saturday morning, specifically to view the Tutankhamun exhibition but also to try and see some of the other fascinating displays.
The building sits at 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive within a huge, landscaped complex that includes the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium and affords wonderful walks along part of the Lake Michigan shoreline with superb views of the downtown area across the open parklands and marina.
The entrance to this wonderful building is akin to walking into a Greek temple with its twin rows of massive Doric columns sitting at the top of the monumental stone staircase. Once inside, the first aspect that hits you is the light, airy feel of the interior along with of course the sheer physical volume of the space. The editors had pre-booked our tickets and within a few minutes we were ushered into the beginning of the King Tut exhibition where, alas, no photographs were allowed.
The exhibition was busy meaning that we often had to wait for several minutes at various displays but this didn’t detract from the experience. The differing displays dealt with every aspect of the boy king’s short life and included some staggeringly beautiful gold artifacts such as a diadem, brooches, bracelets, and necklaces as well as perfume bottles, dining bowls and statuettes of various gods and deities that were worshipped 3000 years ago. Also on display is the ebony throne from where Tutankhamun ruled his subjects.
Of course, the biggest mystery surrounding Tutankhamun is his particularly short life and several displays show objects such as ceremonial daggers that would have been placed inside his sarcophagus to assist him on his journey to "the Fields of the Blessed" after his body had been mummified. Of particular interest are the CT scans taken of Tutankhamun’s body which were intended to give some information regarding his death at the very young age of 19.
I found the exhibition spell-binding and it was with some regret that I eventually realised I had seen all that there was to see and emerged from the subdued lighting of the exhibition back into the main ground floor area of the museum.
With an itinerary to adhere to for the remainder of the day, Carole, Dianne, and I decided to see the displays of Native American Culture which included two enormous totem poles as well as wonderful exhibits detailing every aspect of their lives including clothing, tribal hierarchy, weaponry, head-dresses, food and hunting and how their future was placed in severe jeopardy by the virtual extinction of the North American buffalo as the frontiersmen pushed ever further west.
With time now running out, we decided that there were just two more exhibits that we wanted to see and these were arguably the two that the museum is best known for. The first was "Sue", the virtually complete T-Rex skeleton, first unveiled to the public in May 2000. When she was discovered her skeleton was complete save for one foot, one "hand" and a few back-bones. It is believed that she met her fate in a mudslide, causing her skeleton to remain almost complete for some 65 million years.
Next door to Sue are the two impressive Mastodons, huge elephant-like creatures that walked the Earth during the more recent Ice Ages.
It was a shame that constraints of time precluded us from exploring further in this majestic building. It was such a bright, warm day outside that we felt we needed some fresh air and with that in mind, we took a half-hour stroll around the lakeside pathway towards the Aquarium, after having filled our empty stomachs with genuine Chicago Hot-Dogs from one of the vendors down by the parkland. "Don’t ask for ketchup", advised Carole, "or he may well decline to serve you!" This was no problem as I hate the horrible stuff anyway!
The Field Museum has so much to see that an entire day wouldn’t be sufficient time. Add to this the great walks, the Aquarium and the Planetarium and you have a complex that in all reality would need a week to explore fully.
Standard admission is on two levels, for resident Chicagoans and for non-residents, as follows:
Local Chicagoan Visitors
Child (3-11) $6.25
Senior (65+) $8.75
A cab ride from downtown will cost around $8-$10. Red, Orange, and Green El lines all stop close by.
The Museum has recently stopped offering free admission on Thursdays. It does now however offer free admissions on various dates throughout January, February, June, September, October, November and on December 24th. For a full list of dates and times see www.fieldmuseum.org