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Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago)

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Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago)

Museum of Science and Industry
Established 1933
Location E.57th Street and Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
Type Science and Technology Museum
Public transit access CTA Bus routes:
Routes 6 and 28
(to 56th Street and Hyde Park Boulevard)
Route 10
(to Museum of Science and Industry)
Metra Train:
55th-56th-57th Street Station
(between Stony Island and Lake Park Avenues)
Designated: November 1, 1995

The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is located in Chicago, Illinois, USA in Jackson Park, in the Hyde Park neighborhood between Lake Michigan and The University of Chicago. It is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Initially endowed by Julius Rosenwald, the Sears, Roebuck and Company president and philanthropist, it was supported by the Commercial Club of Chicago and opened in 1933 during the Century of Progress Exposition.

It is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. Among its diverse and expansive exhibits, the Museum features a full-size replica coal mine, a German submarine (U-505) captured during World War II, a 3,500-square-foot (330 m2) model railroad, the first diesel-powered streamlined stainless-steel passenger train (Pioneer Zephyr), and the Apollo 8 spacecraft that carried the first humans to orbit the Moon.

Based on 2009 attendance, the Museum of Science and Industry was the second largest cultural attraction in Chicago.[1] David R. Mosena has been President and CEO of the Museum since 1998.[2]


The Palace of Fine Arts (also known as the Fine Arts Building) at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition was designed by Charles B. Atwood for D. H. Burnham & Co. Unlike the other "White City" buildings, it was constructed with a brick substructure under its plaster facade. After the World's Fair, it initially housed the Columbian Museum, which evolved into the Field Museum of Natural History. When a new Field Museum building opened near downtown Chicago in 1920, the museum organization moved and the former site was left vacant.

Art Institute of Chicago professor Lorado Taft led a public campaign to restore the building and turn it into another art museum, one devoted to sculpture. The South Park Commissioners (now part of the Chicago Park District) won approval in a referendum to sell $5 million in bonds to pay for restoration costs, hoping to turn the building into a sculpture museum, a technical trade school, and other things. However, after a few years, the building was selected as the site for a new science museum.

At this time, the Commercial Club of Chicago was interested in establishing a science museum in Chicago. Julius Rosenwald, the Sears, Roebuck and Company president and philanthropist, energized his fellow club members by pledging to pay $3 million towards the cost of converting the Palace of Fine Arts (Rosenwald eventually contributed more than $5 million to the project). During its conversion into the MSI, the building's exterior was re-cast in limestone to retain its 1893 Beaux Arts look. The interior was replaced with a new one in Art Moderne style designed by Alfred P. Shaw.

Rosenwald established the museum organization in 1926 but declined to have his name on the building. For the first few years, the museum was often called the Rosenwald Industrial Museum. In 1928, the name of the museum was officially changed to the Museum of Science and Industry. Rosenwald's vision was to create a museum in the style of the Deutsches Museum in Munich, which he had visited in 1911 while in Germany with his family.

The Museum's Christmas Around the World 2006 exhibit

Sewell Avery, another businessman, had supported the museum within the Commercial Club and was selected as its first president of the board of directors. The museum conducted a nationwide search for the first director. MSI's Board of Directors selected Waldemar Kaempffert, then the science editor of The New York Times, because he shared Rosenwald's vision.

He assembled the museum's curatorial staff and directed the organizing and constructing the exhibits. In order to prepare the museum, Kaempffert and his staff visited the Deutsches Museum in Munich, the Science Museum in Kensington, and the Technical Museum in Vienna, all of which served as models. Kaempffert was instrumental in developing close ties with the science departments of the University of Chicago, which supplied much of the scholarship for the exhibits. Kaempffert resigned in early 1931 amid growing disputes with the second president of the board of directors; they disagreed over the objectivity and neutrality of the exhibits, and Kaempffert's management of the staff.

The new Museum of Science and Industry opened to the public in three stages between 1933 and 1940. The first opening ceremony took place during the Century of Progress Exposition. Two of the Museum's presidents, a number of curators and other staff members, and exhibits came to MSI from the Century of Progress event.

For years visitors entered the museum through its original main entrance, but it was too small to handle an increasing volume of visitors. The new main entrance is a structure detached from the main museum building, through which visitors descend into an underground area and re-ascend into the main building, similar to the Louvre Pyramid.

For over 55 years, admission to the MSI was free. However, fees began to be charged during the early 1990s, with general admission rates doubling from $13 in 2008 to $27 in 2013.[3] Occasional "free days" were designated. However, in recent years those free days were restricted to Illinois residents showing proof of residence.[4]


A United 727
German submarine U-505

The Museum has over 2,000 exhibits, displayed in 75 major halls. The Museum has several major permanent exhibits: The Coal Mine re-creates a working deep-shaft, bituminous coal mine inside the Museum's Central Pavilion, using original equipment from Old Ben #17 circa 1933. Since 1954, the Museum has had the U-505 submarine, one of just two German submarines captured during World War II, and the only one on display in the Western Hemisphere. Access to several of the exhibits (including the coal mine and tour of U-505) require the payment of an additional fee.

The Museum opened The New U-505 Experience on June 5, 2005. Take Flight features a Boeing 727 jet plane donated by United Airlines, with one wing removed and holes cut on the fuselage to facilitate visitor access. Silent-film star and stock-market investor Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle "dolls house" is on display. The Great Train Story, a 3,500-square-foot (330 m2) model railroad, recounts the story of transportation from Chicago to Seattle.

The Transportation Zone includes exhibits on air and land transportation, including the 999 Empire State Express steam locomotive, which the museum claims is the first vehicle to exceed 100 mph. This, however is disputed, and another contender is GWR 3700 Class 3440 City of Truro. This claim has little supporting evidence; for example, unlike City of Truro, there are no timings showing the acceleration up to 100 mph. Even some contemporary American technical journals doubted that such a high speed had been attained:[5]

Many are disposed to receive with doubt the statement that on 9 May the locomotive No. 999 of the New York Central railroad ran at the speed of 100 miles an hour, or that on a subsequent date she ran a single mile in 32 seconds.
Junkers Ju 87 "Stuka"

The Transportation Zone also includes two World War II warplanes donated by the British government: a German Ju 87 R-2/Trop. Stuka divebomber — one of only two intact Stukas left in the world — and British a Supermarine Spitfire. The first diesel-powered streamlined stainless-steel train, the Pioneer Zephyr, is on permanent display in the Great Hall, renamed the Entry Hall in 2008. A free tour goes through it every 10–20 minutes. Several U.S. Navy warship models are on display, and a flight simulator for the new F-35 Lightning II is featured.

In keeping with Rosenwald's vision, many of the exhibits are interactive, ranging from Genetics: Decoding Life, which looks at how genetics affect human and animal development as well as containing a chick hatchery composed of an incubator where baby chickens hatch from their eggs and a chick pen for those that have already hatched, to ToyMaker 3000, a working assembly line that lets visitors order a toy top and watch as it is made. The interactive Fab Lab MSI, is intended as an interactive lab where members can "build anything".

In March 2010, the museum opened Science Storms in the Allstate Court. This multilevel exhibit features a 40-foot (12 m) water vapor tornado, tsunami tank, Tesla coil, heliostat system, and a Wimshurst machine built by James Wimshurst in the late 19th century. All artifacts allow guests to explore the physics and chemistry of the natural world.[6]

MSI's Henry Crown Space Center includes the Apollo 8 spacecraft, which flew the first mission beyond low earth orbit to the Moon, enabling its crew, Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders to become the first human beings to see the Earth as a whole, as well as becoming the first to view the Moon up close (as well as the first to view its farside at all). Other exhibits include an OmniMax theater, Scott Carpenter's Mercury-Atlas 7 spacecraft, a Lunar Module trainer and a life-size mockup of a space shuttle.

The Museum is known for unique and quirky permanent exhibits, such as a walk-through model of the human heart. It was removed[7] in 2008 for the construction of YOU! the Experience,[8] which replaced it with a 13-foot-tall (4.0 m), interactive, 3D heart.[9] Also well known are the Body Slices [two cadavers exhibited in 12-inch-thick (13 mm) slices] in the exhibit.

In spring 2013, the Art of the Bicycle exhibit opened. This exhibit showcased the history of the bicycle and how modern bikes are still continuing to evolve.

Other exhibits include Yesterday's Mainstreet; a mock-up of a Chicago street from the early 20th century, complete with a cobblestone road, old-fashioned light fixtures, fire hydrants, and several shops, including the precursors to several Chicago-based businesses. Included are:

Unlike the other shops, Finnigan's Ice Cream Parlor and The Nickelodeon Cinema can be entered and are functional. Finnigan's serves an assortment of ice cream and The Cinema plays short silent films throughout the day.

A second transportation gallery is located on the museum's west wing, containing models of "Ships Through the Ages" and several historic racing cars.

The FarmTech exhibit showcases modern agricultural techniques and how farmers use modern technology like GPS systems to improve work on the farm.

Other upper level exhibits include Reusable City, which focuses on recycling and other methods that could cut down harmful pollution and especially climate change and the Regenstein Hall of Science, containing a giant periodic table of the elements, while other main level exhibits including Fast Forward, which features some aspects of how technology will change in the future; NetWorld, which focuses on the Internet and how it connects society together; Earth Revealed, featuring a Science on a Sphere holographic globe; and a Whispering Gallery.

Some areas aimed for younger children include the Swiss Jollyball, the world's largest pinball machine built by a British man from Switzerland using nothing but salvaged junk; the Idea Factory, a toddler water table play area; and the Circus, featuring animated dioramas of a miniature circus as well as containing a shadow garden and several funhouse mirrors.

Changes have included, in 1993, the F-104 Starfighter on loan to MSI from the U.S. Air Force, since 1978, being sent to the Mid-America Air Museum in Liberal, Kansas; and, in March 1995, Santa Fe Steam Locomotive 2903 being moved from outside the museum to the Illinois Railway Museum.

The museum holds the Junior Achievement's U.S. Business Hall of Fame.[10][11]


In addition to its three floors of standing exhibits, the Museum of Science & Industry hosts temporary and traveling exhibitions. Exhibitions last for five months or less and usually require a separate paid admission fee. Exhibitions at MSI have included Titanic: The Exhibition,[12] which was the largest display of relics from the wreck of RMS Titanic, in 2000; Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds, a view into the human body through use of plastinated human specimens in 2005; also in the same year was Game On,[13] which features the history and culture of video games; and Leonardo da Vinci: Man, Inventor, Genius[14] in the summer of 2006. Past temporary exhibitions included CSI: The Experience, Robots Like Us,[15] City of the Future,[16] Canstruction and Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination,and The Glass Experience. Harry Potter: The Exhibition ran from April to September 2009. The fourth installment of Smart Home: Green + Wired reopened in March 2011 and ran through January 2012, featuring the work of green architect Michelle Kaufmann.

See also


  1. ^ "Chicago's Largest Cultural Attractions". ChicagoBusiness. Crain Communications, Inc. 2009. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  2. ^ "Officers and Directors 2011". 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Engineering Magazine 1893 Vol 5 p530
  6. ^ "Museum of Science and Industry | Science Storms News". Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  7. ^ Mullen, William (2009-08-26). "Museum of Science and Industry Gets a New Heart Display".  
  8. ^ YOU! the Experience
  9. ^ "Museum of Science and Industry | Your Heart". Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  10. ^ U.S. Business Hall of Fame - Museum
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ TITANIC Exclusively at the Museum of Science and Industry
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ MSI | Leonardo da Vinci Exhibit
  15. ^ [3]
  16. ^ The City of the Future: A Design and Engineering Challenge


  • Kogan, Herman. A Continuing Marvel: The Story of the Museum of Science and Industry. 1st ed. Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1973.
  • Pridmore, Jay. Inventive Genius: The History of the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. Chicago: Museum of Science and Industry, 1996.
  • Museum of Science and Industry (Yesterday's Main Street)
  • Museum of Science and Industry (You! the Experience)

External links

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