The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is located in Chicago, Illinois in Jackson Park, in the Hyde Park neighborhood adjacent to Lake Michigan. It is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Initially endowed by Sears, Roebuck and Company president and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, it first opened in 1933 during the Century of Progress Exposition.
Among its diverse and expansive exhibits, the Museum features a working coal mine, a German submarine (U-505) captured during World War II, a 3,500 square foot model railroad, the first diesel-powered streamlined stainless-steel passenger train (Pioneer Zephyr), and a NASA space capsule used on the Apollo 8 mission.
Based on 2006 attendance, the Museum of Science and Industry was the fourth largest cultural attraction in Chicago. It rose to second place, based on 2007 attendance.
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. 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. Sears, Roebuck and Company president and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald 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, retaining its 1893 Beaux Arts look, while the interior was replaced with a new one in Art Moderne style designed by Alfred P. Shaw. Rosenwald established the museum organization in 1926 and insisted that his name not appear on the building, but nonetheless, for the first few years of the museum's existence, it was known as the Rosenwald Industrial Museum. In 1928, the name of the museum was changed to the Museum of Science and Industry. Rosenwald's vision was to create an interactive museum in the style of the Deutsches Museum in Munich/Germany, a museum he visited in 1911 when he was on vacation with his family in Germany.
The museum conducted a nationwide search to find its first director. In the end MSI's Board of Directors selected Waldemar Kaempffert because he shared Julius Rosenwald's vision. Kaempffert was the science editor for the New York Times. He assembled the museum's first curatorial staff and began organizing and constructing the exhibits. In order to design and 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 for the MSI. Kaempffert was also 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 over the objectivity and neutrality of the exhibits and his 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. However, it proved too small to handle a large number of people. The new main entrance is a structure detached from the main museum building, through which visitors descend into an underground area then re-ascend into the main building, in a way similar to the Louvre Pyramid.
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. 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 now on display in the Western Hemisphere. In 2004, the Museum opened a pit in the front lawn in front of the East Pavilion that would later become the subterranean McCormick Tribune Foundation Exhibition Hall, brought the U-505 out from behind the East Pavilion, and lowered the U-505 inside, opening The New U-505 Experience on June 5, 2005. Take Flight recreates a San Francisco to Chicago flight using a real Boeing 727 jet plane donated by United Airlines. Silent film star and stock market investor Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle is on display, as is The Great Train Story, a 3,500 square foot model railroad that explains the story of transportation from Seattle to Chicago. The Transportation Zone includes exhibits on air and land transportation, including the 999 Empire Express steam train. The Transportation Zone also features two World War II warplanes donated by the British government, a Ju 87 R-2/Trop. Stuka divebomber — one of only two intact Stukas left in the world — and 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, and a free tour goes through it every 10-20 minutes. Several U.S. Navy warship models are on display. There is a flight simulator for the new F-35 Lightning II.
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, to ToyMaker 3000, a working assembly line that lets visitors order a toy top and watch as it is made.
MSI's Henry Crown Space Center includes the Apollo 8 capsule which took Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders on the first lunar orbital mission. Other exhibits include an OmniMax theater, Scott Carpenter's Mercury Atlas 7 capsule, 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, which closed in 2008, due to a replacement being planned for an exhibit in the future, and Body Slices (two cadavers exhibited in 1/2-inch thick slices), which were placed in storage in 2008, pending use in a future medical exhibit. Due to its age and design, the Museum's building itself has become a museum piece.
Other exhibits include Yesterday's Mainstreet; a mock-up of a Chicago street from the early 1900s 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, both Finnigan's Ice Cream Parlor and The Nickelodeon Cinema can be entered and are functional businesses. Finnigan's serves an assortment of flavors and varieties of ice cream and The Nickelodeon Cinema plays short silent films throughout the day. Another important aspect to Yesterday's Main Street is the air conditioning that is blown through the exhibit to create the sensation of a cool fall evening.
In March 1995 the Santa Fe Steam Locomotive 2903 was moved from outside the museum to the Illinois Railway Museum.
The museum is home to the Junior Achievement's U.S. Business Hall of Fame.
In addition to its three floors of standing exhibits, the Museum of Science & Industry also hosts temporary and traveling exhibitions. Exhibitions differ from exhibits because they last for five months or less. Exhibitions at MSI have included Titanic: The Exhibition, 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; and Leonardo Da Vinci: Man, Inventor, Genius in the summer of 2006. Past temporary exhibitions included CSI: The Experience, Robots Like Us, City of the Future,, Canstruction and Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination. Exhibits opening in 2008 include "The Glass Experience" and Smart Home: Green + Wired