Field Museum of Natural History

Field Museum of Natural History

Field Museum of Natural History, in Chicago, Ill. Founded in 1893 through the gifts of Marshall Field and others, it was first known as the Columbian Museum of Chicago and in 1905 was renamed in honor of its major benefactor. It was originally intended to house the biological and anthropological collections included in the World's Columbian Exposition (1893), and these objects form the core of its collection. First located in Jackson Park, in 1921 it moved to its present site on Chicago Park District, where it is part of a lakefront museum campus that also includes the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. The museum is especially noted for its lifelike exhibits of animals in their natural settings, displays of plant life, and anthropological and geological collections. The many expeditions sponsored by the museum have contributed much to its collections. The museum also conducts research and maintains a publishing plant. Many educational opportunities are offered by its library, school-service department, and special programs.

The Field Museum of Natural History is located in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It sits on Lake Shore Drive next to Lake Michigan, part of a scenic complex known as the Museum Campus Chicago.

Some prized exhibits at The Field Museum include:

  • Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil skeleton currently known.
  • A comprehensive set of human cultural anthropology exhibits, including artifacts from ancient Egypt, the Pacific Northwest and Tibet.
  • A large and diverse taxidermy collection, featuring many large animals, including two prized African elephants and the infamous Lions of Tsavo, featured in the 1996 movie "The Ghost and the Darkness".
  • A large collection of dinosaurs in the Evolving Planet exhibit (formerly Life Over Time).
  • A large collection of Native American artifacts. The main exhibit with these artifacts reopened as Ancient Americas in March 2007.


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 objects illustrating art, archaeology, science and history." The museum was originally housed in the World's Columbian Exposition's Palace of Fine Arts, the building that now houses the Museum of Science and Industry. In 1905, the museum's name was changed to Field Museum of Natural History to honor the museum's first major benefactor, Marshall Field, and to better reflect its focus on the natural sciences. 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. These three institutions are regarded as among the finest of their kind in the world and together attract more visits annually than any comparable site in Chicago. In 2006, the Field Museum had been the number one cultural attraction in Chicago but surrendered the title in 2007 to the Shedd Aquarium.


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. The Library’s collections 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, archaelogy, museology and related subjects. Three special collections are an indispensable part of these holdings: The Mary W. Runnells Rare Book Room, the Photo Archives and the Institutional Archives. These collections document and preserve the development of the Museum and its collections, and the history of its expedition, exhibition and educational programs. Some highlights at The Field Museum Library include:

  • "Ayer Collection" – private collection of Edward E. Ayer, first President of the Museum, chiefly ornithological. Collection contains virtually all the important works in history of ornithology and is especially rich in color-illustrated works.
  • "Laufer Collection" – 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, covering the subjects of: anthropology, archaeology, religion, science and travel.
  • "Photo Archives" - comprises 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): World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 from The Field Museum and Urban Landscapes from The Field Museum

Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex

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 Sue after the paleontologist who found it — Sue Hendrickson. The fossil's actual gender is unknown, although because she was named after Hendrickson, Sue is commonly referred to as female. She is a permanent feature at The Field Museum. Sue's body is located on the main floor in the Stanley Field Hall. Her head was too heavy to be mounted on the rest of the body, so it is located on a second floor balcony, although a replicate head is mounted on Sue's body. There is no additional charge to see this exhibit. Sue and her juvenile counterpart, Jane gives Illinois two important Tyrannosaurus rex fossils. From the rings in the bones, Sue was estimated to be about 29 years of age at the time of her death.

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 Anthropology, Botany, Geology, and 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

Permanent Exhibitions

There are many permanent exhibits located at The Field Museum for the public to enjoy. Many animal specimens are on display in exhibits like Nature Walk, Mammals of Asia, Mammals of Africa, and several other exhibits. Through these exhibits, visitors can get an up-close look at the diverse habitats that animals inhabit.

The Grainger Hall of Gems features a 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. They will get to see what insects and soil look like from that size. Visitors will learn about the soil's biodiversity and the importance of healthy soil.The scale of the exhibit is 100 times larger then their normal size.

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. A popular feature of the exhibit is the mummy of Unis-Ankh, the son of the Pharaoh Unas. The exhibit is a re-creation of his tomb in a mastaba.

Evolving Planet- Throughout this exhibition, visitors will see both the history and the evolution of life on Earth over a span of 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- Takes visitors on a journey through 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.

Dioramas- Visitors can see many animals including everything from tigers to hawks. This area also features the man-eating Lions of Tsavo, featured in the 1996 movie "The Ghost and the Darkness".

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 everyday 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 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, from Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand.


The Museum publishes four peer-reviewed journals under the collective title "Fieldiana", devoted to anthropology, botany, geology and zoology. The archives of the journals are now open to the public via the Internet Archive.



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