Winter Museum Update March 2021

Earth. We're On It. is part of the new Field Museum rebrand. Welcome to 2020 Continued, Chicago! Or at least that's what 2021 has been seeming like. But while 2021 has had its moments of darkness already, things are at least attempting an upturn, with COVID vaccinations beginning, a new administration in the White House, some less brutal weather and some lifting of restrictions that means at least a handful of Chicago's museums are reopening or planning their reopening for the future. We will be revisiting all our favorite institutions in this article, to provide updates to their status, what COVID restrictions are in place for those who do decide to visit again, and what online content is available so that you can make the safest decision while still supporting your favorite institution. Many of Chicago's museums are making the decision to reopen based on the City of Chicago's guidelines, and we're excited about their upcoming plans and exhibitions. Support your local museums by donating, becoming a member, participating in virtual events, and of course, if it can be done safely, visiting them as their doors reopen. Editor's Note: As of press time, Third Coast Review's editorial staff has continued to recommend online interaction with institutions when possible, and has made the decision not to ask its writers or editors to return to in-person events. We encourage everyone to consider the risk, as the pandemic continues, and make the best decisions they can. We urge anyone who does venture out to please be considerate of their fellow Chicagoans by washing hands, wearing masks and continuing to social distance.   Image courtesy Field Museum. From left to right: Phenocia Bauerle, Charmaine Hill, Nina Sanders, JoRee LaFrance. © Adam Sings In The Timber

Field Museum

Open: YES

The Field Museum reopened to the public as of January 23rd. Current operating hours per the Field Museum's website are from 9am to 5pm with the last admission at 4pm. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Safety precautions: At an institution all about science, we'd expect nothing less than respect for the science of sanitation to keep guests safe as they peruse the many wonders of the Field Museum and luckily, the Field easily meets or exceeds those expectations--and they do it with a ridiculous but informative video from SUE to boot. They even sell some pretty sweet Field Museum and SUE branded masks for those of us who want to wear our local museum pride on our faces. What's this mean? The Field Museum is adhering to all CDC and Chicago guidelines for COVID-19 safety.  
  • All visitors enter via East Entrance, socially distanced, but can leave through East, North or South exits.
  • Masks required for Ages 2+
  • 144 sanitizer stations will be set up throughout the museum
  • Markers and paths that help enforce social distancing. 
  • The Field Museum recommends purchasing contactless tickets online
  • In addition, some small galleries are closed, and the Field Museum suggests the use of their digital map to keep track 
  • The museum is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • Limiting capacity to 25%
  • Frequent, rigorous cleaning procedures following CDC Guidelines.

On-Site Exhibits of Note: 

As mentioned above, the Apsaalooke Women and Warriors exhibit was mindblowing. Luckily for all of us after the latest round of closings, it is still on site at the Field so you can get a glimpse of this beautiful exhibit before it is gone. Each evening in her tent, researcher Jane Goodall would write up data from her field notebooks, recounting the chimp behavior she observed that day. In a recent press release, the Field Museum also announced that an immersive, multimedia exhibition on the groundbreaking work of Jane Goodall is planned to land at the Field Museum on May 21, so we've got some other amazing women to admire coming up in our near future at the Field, too.

Online Programming and Activities:

The Field Museum's had a massive online presence even before the pandemic and continues to shine in this category. For example, take a virtual tour with SUE the T. Rex or join a Discovery Adventure that explores the theory that sloths and armadillos were once giant, or meet a Museum Insider when the Field Museum gives staffers the spotlight to talk about all the amazing science that goes on behind the scenes everyday at the Field.   2018 Spring Exteriors

MSI Chicago

If you've been missing MSI you're not alone. We've been wistful for its holiday-trimmed halls full of trees from around the world, the rumble of the indoor tornado and the occasional zap of the giant Tesla coil. The peep of the chicks, the smell of the coal mines and the sound of the mighty U505. We don't have long to wait before MSI is back, boasting another of its awesome temporary exhibits, with the reopening scheduled for the same time MSI's highly anticipated Marvel exhibition is slated to open.

Open: March 7

The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago announced they would reopen to members on March 4-6 for their exclusive MSI Member Days and then reopen on March 7 to the general public. In extremely exciting news for both the museum and its fans, the grand reopening coincides with the debut of the highly anticipated (and likely blockbuster) Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit, which we'll be bringing you all the details on soon.

Safety precautions:

  • Greatly reduced daily capacity,
  • Timed entry tickets for everyone including members,
  • Tickets booked online preferred so there can be fast contactless admission. 
  • Masks required 2 and up
  • Social distancing
  • Disposable styluses given out to use on museum touch screens
  • Grab and go food or bring your own allowed: storage info-- no Brain Food Court or ice cream, but vending on site, and an outdoor tent on the lawn for dining.
  • Modified exhibits/Some exhibits closed like U505 and the Coal Mine, Idea Factory, Future Energy Chicago. 
  • Employees have daily health assessments
  • Rigorous cleanings, once an hour sanitizing, sanitizer stations.
  • AC run consistently to keep humidity and circulation at recommended levels
  • No water fountains. 
Image courtesy MSI Chicago. Photo: Sandro Vannini.

On-Site Exhibits of Note: 

Ah, MSI, how we've missed you. We can't wait to get back in the grand halls and get blinded with science once again. Since it's been a minute since we've been around all the science fun, let's review what you can see when you're at MSI (once you're done with the Marvel exhibit, of course) If the entire Marvel universe isn't enough, how about a visit with some relics from one of the greats, His Airness Michael Jordan. As it happens, at the same time Vision, Spiderman and their pals swoop in, so does Michael Jordan to the Max, one of two brand new Dome Theater documentaries you can see in five-story glory, which relives the greatest moments from Jordan's life and career. If you'd rather get back to nature, you can also check out Canada's Great Bear Rainforest, which takes a look at all the amazing wildlife and the beautiful Canadian habitat they call home, as well as the stories of the indigenous peoples who have protected the forest for a millenia.

Online Programming and Activities: MSI is all about interaction, wherever that can happen, so it's no surprise they've kept up on the at-home fun and learning. The museum has a huge presence on Youtube where you can find all their most popular videos from various exhibits and mainstays as well as things like a whole playlist that features their Black Creativity exhibit and  one specifically dedicated to the Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit everyone's lined up to see.   Underwater Beauty at the Shedd Aquarium. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium has been doing its best to keep people engaged with them since the original onset of the pandemic in March, with plenty of videos from resident penguins, otters and more regularly popping up in our social feeds to remind us that there's still great, fuzzy, friendly, beautiful things out there in the world. They've also been working very hard to bring science and the sort of hands on experiences with scientists that kids and parents get by going to the Shedd possible online, with virtual experiences that allow folks to ask real-time questions to scientists whose job it is to interact with all these amazing animals. And they're providing moments of Zen when you need them with things like Underwater Beauty's live cam, a colorful, quiet little place to recharge during a stressful day working at home. Now that they're open, that all continues, but the work on site begins to keep people as safe as humanly possible, and in a lot of ways, Shedd manages to get it right by providing oceans of information, being willing and able to communicate and change plans if things aren't working right, and setting the standards for how to handle "these trying times." And they've managed to do it WHILE incorporating adorable animals and simultaneously answering just about every question you could think of on how things work now so that no matter what the circumstances are, you'll know what to expect.

Open: YES

The Shedd reopened to visitors in January and has reintroduced its stringent safety measures so visitors can safely see all the critters they love.

Safety Precautions:

  • Advanced tickets mandatory
  • All tickets are timed
  • Limited number of guests
  • There are a set amount of tickets for each time slot
  • All visitors 2 + required to wear masks, mask must cover the mouth and nose at the same time. 
  • Daily employee health screenings
  • Rescheduling help with visits if you're not feeling well on the date you bought the ticket
  • Accomodations for corporate partners and those using things like CITYPASS
  • Clear instructions and signage on where to enter (Accessible entrance only) and staff stationed outside to assist
  • Bag checks 
  • Plexiglass barriers between bag check and visitors
  • Directional signage
  • No aquatic presentations for now
  • Distanced Stingray Touch when weather permits
  • Smaller "touch" experiences are look only for now, and play experiences closed.
  • Emphasis on social distancing.
  • Food courts open with tables 6 feet apart, and outdoor seating
  • Shedd gift shop open, with guidelines on social distancing and a request to only touch what you're going to buy

Image courtesy Shedd Aquarium

On-Site Exhibits of Note:

Since the Shedd reopened its doors, that means you can have unique and exciting chances to interact with the sea creatures within. Exhibits like Underwater Beauty and Amazon Rising are amazing to come see, and though the rules are a little different as stated above you can still have awesome experiences like Stingray Touch.

Online Programming and Activities:

At the Shedd they're still offering some great online content that includes the exhibits you've been missing attending in person, ensuring that those who are not ready to attend in person can still interact with all the amazing critters that the Shedd houses. As it turns out, much of Shedd's premium experiences could be translated to online experiences, and if you're itching to come face to face with otters, sea lions or penguins you can do that. Purchasing these experiences not only gets you an amazing experience with the animals, but also allows for you to ask their caretakers questions live and have them answered. As we mentioned before if you're just looking for a little zen, it's never a bad idea to check out the live cam for the stunning Underwater Beauty exhibit and relax. Or, if you'd like to get outside and still connect with the Shedd, you can check out the beautiful Underwater Beauty murals that are all over Chicago, from Bronzeville to Edgewater, Englewood, Forest Park and Logan Square. Check out the map and plan a photographic exhibition to see them all. You can also get kids involved with fantastic STEM experiences and learning with Shedd’s Stay Home with Shedd programming, for Grades 3 to 5, which is completely free, as is their series Sea Curious which is for kids by kids and explores the aquarium to learn about the animals there and both include free activity guides and instructions for parents, teachers and kids. There’s also free VR google expeditions, audio guides and storytelling as well as penguin tours around the entire Shedd and animal channels galore that let you in on the lives of all the creatures you love to see most when you're on site. Recently, the Shedd added a Virtual Shark Feeding Tour, a Zzzs Under the Seas Virtual Slumber Party and even a live chat with the penguins.  

Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium always encourages a sense of awe and wonder in the world with its fantastic reminder to "Look Up" and it's been a source of calm and inspiration since this all began. Adler's currently not open, but has blown open its doors online for a host of activities and perhaps connected with the community in Chicago more now than it ever has before, encouraging people to realize that even when we're apart we share the same amazing world and can stand together in awe of the universe around us.

Open: NO

Safety Precautions:

On-Site Exhibits of Note: n/a

Online Programming and Activities: While Adler's doors may not be open for visitors, they've done an immensely impressive job of keeping up with all things space, and there are a myriad of ways you can participate in what the Adler has to offer. Check out series like Skywatch Weekly, Wow! Signal, a comedy series, and Sky Observers Weekly, where you can get the latest on, well, the universe! Captain Adler. Adler Planetarium. They’ve also got their Adler ‘Scope Blog, stories from the YOUniverse podcast, and virtual exhibitions including 13 Stories with Captain James Lovell, and even the opportunity to welcome Captain Adler the flatstronaut into your home, customize him and take selfies for science.  There’s a great list of science at home activities and the opportunity to work with Zooniverse to actually help other humans during this time and a beautiful creativity encouraging #LookUp Book.    

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute holds some of the most incredible treasures of art in the entire world, with a fabulous collection of artworks it's stunning to say we've always been able to see in person at our leisure, which is why it's been a notable loss to have had the doors closed. Yes, you can see fantastic works of art online, and we encourage you to do that as we continue to go through this pandemic, but there is certainly something special and even life-changing about standing in front of Van Gogh's self portrait and experiencing the visceral texture and amazing vibrance of every brush stroke. The Art Institute has also opened its doors again, and allowed for those in person experiences for those who feel safe enough to attend. Safety measures are in place, including a real time wait time checker to help you gauge when it might be best to go and when might be best to avoid.

Open: YES

Since reopening many of the previous safety precautions have been reinstituted. One such precaution to note is that the Monet and Bisa Butler exhibitions have introduced virtual lines to avoid in-person ones, and you should check in on your mobile device to reserve your spot in the virtual line so you can keep your distance in the real world.

Safety Precautions:

  • Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Hours change on October 15 hours to normalize, meaning it’s 10 to 11 am members only Thursday through Monday and then 11 to 6 for all visitors with Tuesday and Wednesday closed.
  • Advanced ticket purchase required for public, but members don’t need tickets
  • Face coverings required
  • Six-foot distance required from people not in your group
  • Checkrooms closed, as well as restaurants, valet, the Member Lounge and libraries, and the Ryan Learning Center.
  • Shops open but limited capacity, guests will need to wait to be admitted
  • Some areas of the museum now have one-way traffic
  • Some galleries have limited capacity or are closed. 
  • Shields in use at admissions
  • Hand sanitizer stations
  • Touchscreens removed from exhibits
  • Staff temp checks and health screenings every day.
  • Water fountains converted to bottle filling stations
  • Museum is at 25% capacity to adhere to city guidelines
  • On-line wait time monitoring, special exhibits have virtual wait lists.
  • All in-person events cancelled through end of the year, with virtual events replacing them
Interactive Influence: Artists Connect. Art Institute of Chicago. Photo: Marielle Bokor.

On-Site Exhibits of Note : 

Art Institute of Chicago. Photo: Marielle Bokor As we mentioned before, Monet in Chicago was one of the things we most looked forward to, and it's here. Though you can always see an impressive collection of one of the founders of impressionism's works at the Art Institute, you may not have thought much about how that came to be, and Monet and Chicago fills in those blanks while you peruse the largest collection of works by Monet outside of Paris itself. Minneapolis Institute of Art. Promised gift on long term loan from a private collection. Photo by Margaret Fox, copyright Bisa Butler. Another highly anticipated exhibit now on site is the Bisa Butler show, which runs through September 6 and features an amazing array of the textile artist's colorful creations and the stories behind them. Mountain of Heaven, 2014. Tai Xiangzhou, Collection of Tai Xiangzhou.

Online Programming and Activities:

The Art Institute has got some virtual things going, besides the virtual portion of the El Greco exhibit mentioned above. Upcoming, there are talks with curators, a member exclusive walkthrough of Monet and Chicago, and Virtual Talks like this one on Silence and Solitude and the works of Mark Rothko with educator Sam Ramos or this one on Cosmoscapes, Ink Paintings by Tai Xiangzhou later down the road. That's some of the heavy hitters and their various opening statuses and upcoming exhibits--look for more in the coming days, and stay tuned for our first look at the Marvel exhibit at MSI later this week.  
Picture of the author
Marielle Bokor