Chicago is full of cultural wonders, and the Field Museum’s latest exhibit shows visitors that it has been that way for a very long time. Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair takes visitors back to 1893 to the World’s Columbian Exposition. Taking place just 22 years after the Great Chicago Fire, it was a significant event in the history of Chicago.
The exhibition transports visitors back to that time and shows them what visitors to the Fair saw 120 years ago. It does so in a distinctly modern way, however, using technology like videos, interactive screens an an app. The exhibit also demonstrates the lasting impact of the Columbian Exposition, on the museum, the city of Chicago and the country. Such an exhibit can provide my tween with an understanding of the history of her city and her country in a way that I could never do.
Here are my 4 reasons to see the Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair exhibit.
1. The fair itself was amazing.
The 1893 World’s Fair was humongous, and one of the exhibits explains that organizers recommended fair visitors plan on 2 full weeks to see the more than 65,000 exhibits. Thankfully, the Field Museum has selected approximately 200 objects from the fair, many of which have not been on display since the fair closed.
Those objects really span a wide spectrum, from Peruvian mummies to giant squid to geodes to a bottle of cherry syrup.
In college, I took an American History class that studied the Columbian Exposition, and I loved it. (Little did know that I’d be living in Chicago for 12 years!) Getting to see actual exhibits as those visitors did more than a century ago, like this taxidermied lion, is amazing.
2. The Field Museum App is a modern twist on exploring history.
To enhance your experience of the exhibit, download the Field Museum Tours mobile app. The app offers even more details on various exhibits and even has short videos. My tween is far more likely to check out a quick video than to read the placard next to a display. Here’s a screen shot of the app:
The app works wonders before you’ve even entered the exhibit. Right after you enter the museum, there are these Totem Poles.
I’d seen those Totem Poles on numerous other visits to the Field Museum and had no idea they were part of the Chicago World’s Fair. And then the app gives you a 360 view of the entrance to the fair, complete with the Totem Poles, as you can see in this screen shot:
3. How The Field Museum was born out of the 1893 World’s Fair, and you can see that still today.
The Field Museum was created to commemorate the fair. All those exhibits needed to go somewhere when the Columbian Exposition closed. As the Chicago Tribune said in 1894, “The museum … will be a lasting memorial of the greatest exposition which the world has ever known.”
While the exhibit is in a contained space, it’s possible to explore exhibits from the fair and witness its continuing impact in the fair exhibits that are still currently on display all over the Field Museum. I bet people viewing the garments made of reindeer skin a few years ago weren’t aware of that, but the app makes the connection between the fair and museum very apparent. Here’s a screenshot of the app explaining that:
4. The hands on parts of the exhibit were fun.
Kids love hands on, and there were numerous opportunity to touch and explore exhibits, including this piece of smoky quartz.
I saw some adults really getting in the groove with the interactive screen that lets visitors play a variety of gamelan instruments from the Javanese village at the fair.
I was selected for this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective. I received a ticket to check out the exhibit and no other compensation. All content and opinions expressed here are my own.