Support AND Enjoy Chicago’s Museums from Home-Part Two: Even More Great Museums!

We told you we'd bring you more of what's happening in museums around Chicago in Part 2, and we're back with some great ways to interact with all the great museums in Chicago, big and small. In every case, they've got a ton of great content for you no matter who you are, from lesson plans and educational content for teachers, parents and kids to online events for all, recipes, and virtual experiences with animals, plants and beyond. Take a look at our next batch of museums and how they're providing you with great content during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the ways that you can give back to them (and maybe, in some cases, even pick up some neat stuff while you're at it.) Even if you can't donate or shop museum stores though, make sure you stop by their social media accounts and say hi and thanks for all you do--we could all use a little encouragement.  

MCA Chicago

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is one of our favorite places to be. There’s always something interesting happening there, exhibits, talks and performances are top notch and exciting and the gift shop gives us so many many reasons to part with our money. Until we can darken the doors (safely) again though, how do we get our fix? How They’re Helping: MCA Chicago has always been pretty comfortable with the internet and technology, and oftentimes includes virtual galleries and supplements to their onsite shows.During the COVID crisis they’ve expanded these offerings and set up special performances online, too.  They’ve also taken their second floor community space into cyberspace, introducing The Commons Online, meant to be a community space online for discussion, watch parties, virtual performances and more to include slow art streaming, meditation space, drag queen story hours and artist talks.  For a list of all the events click here MCA Chicago also maintains a great blog, where there’s plenty of activities and great discussion. We especially liked their Zoom background offerings to make meetings more interesting and local, and their printables are inspiring, creative and refreshing, like this one about museum etiquette MCA Chicago_Ofili Mural Chris Ofili, The Sorceress' Mirror, 2017 How You Can Support Them: As it turns out, what happens to be one of our favorite (if not our top favorite) museum stores is fully operational during this quarantine. That’s something to be excited about because they have a ton of great things to decorate your space with, from fantastic prints to interesting, unique glassware and objet d’art, some great apparel and some truly challenging puzzles.  If you’re feeling like adding some new tshirts in your quarantine rotation, even though there’s 100 versions of the L map shirt, we like MCA’s copper and charcoal take Meanwhile, for a less obvious puzzle than the ones you already had stocked on your shelves, try a color gradient puzzle and see how you fare.  Or combat the doldrums of the quarantine with a little color and add some Kahlo to your coffee with this mug--MCA has a plethora of really great, artsy or quirky kitchen fare. If you don't feel like shopping and adding more things to your space, consider a straight up donation, or becoming a member.   Photo by Marielle Shaw

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

The Notebaert Museum represents the oldest scientific institution in Chicago, and as we know, science never sleeps. What that means for fans of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a LOT of great content.  How They’re Helping:  One of the best things the Notebaert is doing during the COVID crisis is providing daily newsletters that contain an entire day’s worth of guided science educational materials for use in at-home learning for kids. Usually the day’s newsletters center around a certain topic and include extra content, like a storytime book reading that’s also topical and even contain links for further content, from books you can read on the Internet archive or order to handouts and activities. They’re extremely thorough, engaging and carefully curated by the museum’s own educators. What’s more, you can easily access the archives for even more content if you’re not already signed up and have a backlog of great science material to help with at home learning.  Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here. You can also follow along with the daily topics and find more videos and adventures on the museum’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Today we watched museum staff feed Alonso the turtle and saw what was happening behind the scenes in the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven. . Kids don’t corner the market on at home learning materials from the Notebaert though, as adults can benefit from great, in depth lectures from the museum, like this one by Chief Curator Doug Taron which covers the common and not so common Butterflies of the American Prairie. The Notebaert is also leading the charge for citizen science and teaming up with the Chicago Conservation Corps to host a webinar series. Tickets are free though donations are an option we recommend, if you are able to give. Previous webinars talked about Vermi Composting, Fresh Water in the Tmie of COVID-19, and Community Solar with CUB, and are available via the museum’s YouTube channel.   How You Can Support Them The Notebaert’s little museum shop is a treat and we’re kicking ourselves for not getting the Chicago flag with butterflies shirt. Unfortunately, it can only be shopped in person. So where does that leave us with supporting an amazing, historic institution that’s doing so much to educate us on the world around us and putting so much effort into content and conservation? You can donate by purchasing tickets to webinars, as mentioned above, or simply make a donation via the museum’s donation page here in any amount, as a one time gift or a recurring donation.  You can also choose to use that money towards becoming a member so you’ll always get a seat at the table once doors open again. Membership at the Nature Museum has a lot of benefits, including reciprocal free admission and often hosts special events for its members, and memberships are for two years, so there’ll be plenty of time left to explore before you need to re-up.   Chicago History Museum. Photo by Christa Lohman.

The Chicago History Museum

If you’re living in Chicago and love finding out more about Chicago past, then the Chicago History Museum is a must. Since 1856 they’ve taken care of the amazing artifacts from the city’s past as well as presenting looks at the amazing culture around us every day and ensuring future generations will be able to be intimately familiar with our city’s history through their preservation, archiving and research efforts. Now more than ever, it’s vital to capture the thoughts and actions of our city in crisis.  How They’re Helping: The Chicago History Museum has launched a huge initiative called In This Together to collect digital records of Chicagoans’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone who lives in chicago or the surrounding area is invited to submit digital journal entries, audio or video, photos or emails. There’s even a form for those who may want to submit physical object to the project. You can view the work in progress here. Meanwhile, the History Museum has some truly great online content, including extensive archives that are available to researchers and the public at large Their Online Exhibitions include interesting looks at things like the Haymarket Riots, Chicago’s culinary history, Chicago during World War I and plenty more.  They’re also putting a lot of effort into their social media. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook for all kinds of fun content For those enduring lots of Zoom meetings, add a little local flair to them with Zoom backgrounds taken from the museum’s image collection. And for something unique to the museum, there’s online jigsaw puzzles of Chicago locales to put together virtually, so there’s no chance you’ll lose a piece or watch the cat ruin your hard work.   Credit: The Chicago Brewseum How You Can Support Them: Museums are struggling right now. Though museums do benefit from memberships and donations, they also rely on admissions from visitors, and have a long list of employees whose goal it is to preserve, protect and provide you with a great experience. Unfortunately, since doors are closed museums are getting hit hard, too. The Chicago History Museum is actively seeking help to stay afloat, with a fundraising campaign already in place to help provide for the museum’s longevity, and they’re asking for everyone who can to help them with donations meant to keep the amazing work going. Their goal is to raise $125,000 to cover the loss of earned revenue, and you can make a gift in any amount to help that goal here. If you are able, consider a donation. After all, it’s what famed documentarian Ken Burns would do (Really! Hear his praise for the Chicago History Museum and his personal plea for donations in the video below). Or, invest in hope for a future that includes visits to the museum by becoming a member, and you’ll get access to all kinds of great events and a little discount to their excellent museum store once it opens up again.   The Word Waterfall at the American Writer's Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

The American Writers Museum

The American Writers Museum is brand spanking new, and we were there on day one to welcome it to Chicago. Though small, it’s had a big impact already with great exhibits and engaging programs, and as it turns out, they’ve got plenty of things available  How They’re Helping: Even if you hadn’t made it out to see the museum, it turns out you’re in luck because you can visit the entirety of the American Writers Museum virtually with its president Carey Cranston via a live tour he did a few weeks ago that you can still watch on YouTube: That’s not all though, as the museum’s also created a virtual exhibit based on their most recent temporary one, My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today. AWM has taken all their programming online with some great author talks coming up. You can sign up for these events here. For the kids, there’s a Little Squirrel Storytime event that happens on Facebook Live each Saturday at 10:30 am, There’s also a book club you can join for reading recommendations, and a blog with plenty of writing inspiration and even more book recommendations   Interchangeable author features in one room at the American Writers Museum allow for quick changes and spotlights. Photo by Marielle Shaw. How You Can Support Them: It appears you’re still able to take advantage of the offerings in the museum’s online store, including this exclusive Emily Dickinson shirt, but if you don’t feel like shopping, you can also become a member or just donate to support the continuation of the museum’s work.  

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center’s very motto is “Take history to heart. Take a stand for humanity.” and if there was ever a time to heed those words it’s certainly now. A lot of what the museum does now and has always done is to support and encourage “upstanders” who don’t sit quietly through injustices and fight for what’s right, and that’s something they continue to do even as the museum remains closed. How They’re Helping: Knowledge of the atrocities, racism, classism, hatred and bigotry that led to the Holocaust and more recent events worldwide is the first step in taking action to prevent them from happening again and again. To that end, the Illinois Holocaust Museum offers all their learning resources for students and educators online, with things like free virtual field trips for grades 7-12, audio resources, and civics, human and civil rights curriculum for students, along with a virtual cornucopia of resources on everything from social emotional learning and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising to professional development workshops. They’re also using their social media presence on Twitter and Facebook to recognize #ChicagoUpstanders who are doing their best to do what’s right even at great risk to themselves, and tomorrow at 10 am, they’ll be hosting an event called “Coffee with a Survivor” Ernie Heimann, whose school and synagogue were destroyed on Kristalnacht and who eventually fled to London. We highly recommend everyone hear what survivors of these immensely tragic events have to say on survival, community, unity and peace. During this time, the museum’s also offering virtual tours of the museum on Vimeo, and has started up an Artifacts From The Vault series created by registrar Emily Mohney that takes you behind the scenes for stories about the unique artifacts not already on display in the museum, like this one about Chicago survivor Bernard Salomon’s wallet     Sam Harris, a Holocaust survivor, views his own story in the Take a Stand Center, which opened October 29th at the Illinois Holocaust Museum. Photo by Marielle Shaw. How You Can Support Them: Become a part of the Holocaust Museum’s efforts to take a stand for humanity by making a donation or tribute or becoming a member.    That's it for Part 2 of our Quarantine Museum Roundup but we're not done, and you can be on the lookout for Part 3 soon!
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Marielle Bokor