As we’re grappling with the news that the pandemic won’t peak until Mid May in Illinois and looking at an uncertain future for so many events and activities in and around Chicago, it’s natural to feel a little lost and sad. There’s so much about daily life that changed so quickly and so many things we miss so profoundly. And while the concept of staying in can seem daunting, as we’re seeing, arts and culture have been playing a huge part in keeping us safe and sane while we stay at home.
My work with Chicago’s museums has been inspiring and surprising, educational and enriching. I MISS Museum Campus. I mourn for the fantastic exhibits we didn’t get to see open, like The Field Museum’s beautiful, one of a kind exhibit on the Apsaalooke Women from what we know as the Crow tribe and their art. It was their story, told by them, featuring incredible works of art on the walls of the exhibit space and, in a wonderful turn of events, in the museum store–not “tribal” patterns and postcards–real, actual objects made by the Apsaalooke women–prints, lotions, masks, jewelry, paintings. It was real, transformational, and amazing. I hope that we can see it when museums do eventually open their doors again. But that is not right now.
A while back, we gave you a list of some ways to enjoy museums from home, and as we face the prospect of staying home longer than we even thought we would last month, we wanted to specifically look at not only how you can engage with our fantastic array of Chicago museums, but how you can support them. Museums of all sizes count on donations and admission fees, and the closures, though vital to flattening the curve of the coronavirus spread in Illinois and the US at large, make a huge impact. Shopping local now is more important than ever, and that includes our museums. So, let’s dive in and see what each institution’s doing and what we can do to provide them mutual support.
The Art Institute of Chicago
How They’re Helping: As we mentioned in our previous article, the Art Institute of Chicago is an open book to virtual visitors, featuring tons of interactive features, video content, a regularly updated blog and even a special virtual version of the El Greco: Ambition and Defiance exhibition so that those who were excited to see it in person can still have a great, enriching experience. Anyone can take advantage of the rich educational material and enjoy the beautiful art from their home computer screen.
We especially enjoyed this essay on Nighthawk by Edward Hopper and how it’s a symbol of hope through this pandemic. Read it here:
How You Can Help Them::
Help out the Art Institute by becoming a member and receiving yearlong free admission for yourself, your kids and one other adult, with special access to events, lectures and workshops or, if you’ve been sprucing up the house and need a real statement piece, check out the beautiful objet d’arts in the AIC Museum store. The best part? Nothing’s over $30 and most things are well under, so you potentially help an institution you love without it jeopardizing your budget.
Since the Art Institute is one of the few museums in Chicago whose gift shop is still available online, one of the best ways to enrich your life and support the institution is to bring some AIC into your #quarantinelife. We picked out a few great things from the vast catalog. Host your own Warhol exhibit while you stay at home with unmatted prints of his Polaroids. If you’re looking for a way to help yourself write more, or to keep a diary of this strange time in our world’s history, I find pretty notebooks and journals motivate me to crack the cover and get the pen to paper, so this set of 2 Mondrian journals would do the trick. Keeping your brain busy somehow is important, and puzzles can actually get you in a pretty zen space. Maybe the answer for you is the Monteverde Cloud Forest preserve puzzle for a bit of a challenge and a lot of meditative time spent looking at something beautiful.
The Field Museum
How They’re Helping: The Field Museum continues to keep science at the forefront and features an incredibly impressive lineup of resources and ways to stay connected outside Stanley Field Hall, with a huge array of learning resources for kids, parents and teachers that include videos, games and even lesson plans.
Meanwhile, if you love The Brain Scoop video series, Emily Graslie continues to impress and entertain from her very own backyard with everything from Field Bird Bingo to our beloved quarantine obsession, Animal Crossing, where she recently partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a tour of the in-game museum and talks about the real life fish bugs and fossils featured in game and even more facts than Blathers could give you. In case you missed it, we’ve linked it below.
If you’re headed out for nature walks, check out the Field Museum’s Field Guides which feature all kinds of info, with a great issue (Guide #1244) on what sorts of Illinois wildlife you’ll see this Spring.
Finally, you can participate in Live Chats with scientists on various social media platforms, connect with SUE on Twitter, and text Maximo any questions you want to ask him at 70221. Yes, really.
How You Can Help Them:
The Field Museum Store has something for everyone. Get a SUE tshirt, order a science project for your kids at home, get a membership for when they reopen, or, if you want get a glimpse of the vibrant, historic, personal and powerful Apsaalooke Women exhibit that was set to open just as things started to shut down, there’s an amazing array of beautiful one of a kind art by the tribal members themselves, everything from full size paintings and prints to delicate jewelry and smaller prints that can be acquired for around $20.
How They’re Helping
MSI is one of the most hands-on museums in the city, and they continue to blind us with science even with their doors closed. The Museum of Science and Industry has a huge illustrated library full of science projects you can do at home (with or without kids, science is awesome!) and the amazing thing is, most of the projects involve regular household objects you won’t need to go out for. Pick one a day and your kids will ask you for more lab time.
You should also be following MSI on Twitter as they help on the grocery and education front with their sourdough starter day by day, led by Jonathan Barnes, Senior Coordinator of Guest Experiences and self proclaimed avid home chef. Then, with or without yeast and without having to leave the house, create your own delicious bread to enjoy.
Tonight, they’ll be hosting a LIVE conversation with Chicago makers on how they’ve come together to create PPE for medical workers in our area and beyond.
How You Can Help Them:
Unfortunately, MSI’s store is closed during the Shelter in Place, but you can make a note of all the amazing content they provide during this time and make sure to get a membership so you can witness all the amazing things with fresh eyes once doors reopen.
The Shedd Aquarium
How They’re Helping:
The Shedd Aquarium is always looking to educate and care for the world around us, and it’s no different during this pandemic. In fact, the Shedd Aquarium recently loaned a very sophisticated robotic extraction device to the CDC to use in coronavirus testing.
As for what the Shedd is doing for Chicagoans who are sheltering in place, one only needs to look to their social media for great videos that are adorable and educational–watch otters eat clams and learn about their “arm pockets” or watch some penguins wander the exhibits freely on their Instagram. Yesterday was Shedd sea otter Yaku’s birthday and there was of course a much needed dose of extreme cuteness when the staff faithfully taking care of these critters hosted a socially distanced but super fun birthday party for him. Cute is therapeutic, and so is beautiful, and the Shedd has both in spades. Make sure you’ve got them on Twitter AND Instagram so you don’t miss out.
You can also dive deep with the Shedd with some of their 360 degree videos from out in the field and dive with sharks, or, get a live view of Underwater Beauty if you’re stressed out and would just like to look at something soothing and beautiful.
How You Can Help Them:
While the Shedd’s fantastic store is also closed at this time, they encourage you to support the amazing animals and efforts of museum staff by buying a membership, donating or adopting an animal at the Shedd.
The Adler Planetarium
How They’re Helping:
It can be rather calming to look to the skies these days, and the Adler Planetarium can help you number and name the stars, and even delve into the mysteries of space. Right now, they’re providing comfort any way they can, including a moving speech from astronaut James A Lovell Jr about how to overcome great challenges, as part of a remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission:
They’re also providing laughs by participating in the Lori Lightfoot memes on Twitter, as well as sharing videos encouraging Chicagoans to Give Chicago Some Space, and helping us look up in wonder and talk about what we’re seeing. Here’s a full list of their resources.
The Adler is also hosting some live Youtube content, including a look at the moon live, so it’s more than worth it to stay tuned to their social media.
For more educational content, stay tuned to their blog, where they’re talking staying in, looking up and going Inside Apollo 13:
How You Can Help Them:
We’ll continue to bring you more on Chicago’s museums, big and small, and how we can enjoy and support them, in Part 2 of our ongoing series, so stay tuned!