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Inside the house of curiosities: Photos show the Field Columbian Museum in Chicago from 1894 to 1920 …

David Goran

The Field Columbian Museum in Chicago opened in 1894 and was created to house the artifacts from the anthropology, botany, geology and zoology collections at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The museum maintains its status as a premier natural history museum through the size and quality of its educational and scientific programs, as well as due to its extensive scientific specimen and artifact collections. It is one of the largest such museums in the world. The diverse, high-quality permanent exhibitions, which attract up to 2 million visitors annually, range from the earliest fossils from the past to current cultures from around the world, with interactive programming demonstrating today’s urgent conservation needs.

North Facade entrance to Field Columbian Museum building, 1912

North Facade entrance to Field Columbian Museum building, 1912

 

Giant redwood tree wedge, mammoth model restoration, and mastodon skeleton, 1895

Giant redwood tree wedge, mammoth model restoration, and mastodon skeleton, 1895

 

East court. Archaeology and Ethnology of North America. Large canoe and other canoes hanging in front of alcoves. Exhibits and floor cases, 1897

East court. Archaeology and Ethnology of North America. Large canoe and other canoes hanging in front of alcoves. Exhibits and floor cases, 1897

 

West Court with Zoology exhibit cases including African mammal diorama, seal, and right whale skeleton, 1897

West Court with Zoology exhibit cases including African mammal diorama, seal, and right whale skeleton, 1897

 

Paleo skeletons, mastodon or elephant skeleton, Irish Elk, 1898

Paleo skeletons, mastodon or elephant skeleton, Irish Elk, 1898

 

Hall 36 Paleo reconstruction: Pedestal 17, restoration of a skeleton of Dinoceras from Wyoming. Pedestal 18, a skeleton of Megaloceros (Irish Deer) from Limerick. Pedestal 12, restoration of a skeleton of Hadrosaurus from the Upper Cretaceous of New Jersey. This was a huge land reptile, 28 feet in length, related to the Iguanodon, 1898

Hall 36 Paleo reconstruction: Pedestal 17, restoration of a skeleton of Dinoceras from Wyoming. Pedestal 18, a skeleton of Megaloceros (Irish Deer) from Limerick. Pedestal 12, restoration of a skeleton of Hadrosaurus from the Upper Cretaceous of New Jersey. This was a huge land reptile, 28 feet in length, related to the Iguanodon, 1898

 

Moon Model Prepared by Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt, Germany, in 1898. Made of 116 sections of plaster on a framework of wood and metal.

Moon Model Prepared by Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt, Germany, in 1898. Made of 116 sections of plaster on a framework of wood and metal.

 

Snowy Owl (Nyctea nycta) and Willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) [birds] with an Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus) in the background. Protective Coloration of Birds and Mammals in High Latitudes, 1899

Snowy Owl (Nyctea nycta) and Willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) [birds] with an Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus) in the background. Protective Coloration of Birds and Mammals in High Latitudes, 1899

West Court. Large whale skeleton, restoration model of Mammoth, skeleton of mastodon, 1899

West Court. Large whale skeleton, restoration model of Mammoth, skeleton of mastodon, 1899

 

Elmer Riggs and [H.W.] Harold W. Menke in Paleontology lab, 1899

Elmer Riggs and [H.W.] Harold W. Menke in Paleontology lab, 1899

Paleontology Laboratory, 1899

Paleontology Laboratory, 1899

 

Lions and cougars. Large cats in glass exhibit cases and in a diorama group. Late 19th-century taxidermy, 1899

Lions and cougars. Large cats in glass exhibit cases and in a diorama group. Late 19th-century taxidermy, 1899

 

Elmer S. Riggs and Mr. Klein with fossil rhinoceros skull in Paleontology Lab. Other specimens in view include mastodon or elephant, titanothere, Diornis, uintathere, 1899

Elmer S. Riggs and Mr. Klein with fossil rhinoceros skull in Paleontology Lab. Other specimens in view include mastodon or elephant, titanothere, Diornis, uintathere, 1899

 

Moose, American Elk and Sowerby’s Whale, 1899

Moose, American Elk and Sowerby’s Whale, 1899

 

Glyptodon (armadillo) carapace, Megatherium ground sloth skeleton [verify if cast], and Colossochelys model of Atlas Turtle (Testudo atlas). Drawings of invertebrates on walls. Silurian, Devonian fossils in wood and glass exhibit cases, 1900

Glyptodon (armadillo) carapace, Megatherium ground sloth skeleton [verify if cast], and Colossochelys model of Atlas Turtle (Testudo atlas). Drawings of invertebrates on walls. Silurian, Devonian fossils in wood and glass exhibit cases, 1900

American Moose on pedestal, turtle mounted on wall behind, 1900

American Moose on pedestal, turtle mounted on wall behind, 1900

 

Hall 20 Pedestals with an Elephant, baby elephant and seal, 1900

Hall 20 Pedestals with an Elephant, baby elephant and seal, 1900

 

Fossil skull, a portion of jaws with teeth of Ichthyosaur, Ichthyosaurus communis Corybeare. Early Jurassic, 1905

Fossil skull, a portion of jaws with teeth of Ichthyosaur, Ichthyosaurus communis Corybeare. Early Jurassic, 1905

 


 

The professional staff maintains collections of over 24 million specimens and objects that provide the basis for the museum’s scientific research programs. These collections include the full range of existing biodiversity, gems, meteorites, fossils, as well as rich anthropological collections and cultural artifacts from around the globe. The Field Museum Library, which contains over 275,000 books, journals, and has photo archives focused on biological systems, evolutionary biology, geology, archaeology, ethnology and material culture, supports the Field Museum’s academic research faculty and exhibit development. The Field Museum maintains its high reputation through continuous growth, expanding the scope of collections, and extensive scientific research output, in addition to the institution’s award-winning exhibitions, associated outreach publications, and programs.

Meteorites exhibit, 1905

Meteorites exhibit, 1905

 

A security guard in uniform standing on a wooden platform with his arm resting on the specimen of Smithsonite from the Morning Star Mine, Oklahoma. 1906

A security guard in uniform standing on a wooden platform with his arm resting on the specimen of Smithsonite from the Morning Star Mine, Oklahoma. 1906

 

Apatosaurus excelsus skeleton, 1908

Apatosaurus excelsus skeleton, 1908

 

Skeleton of a turtle on display, 1908

Skeleton of a turtle on display, 1908

 

Hall 78, Non-Metallic Minerals exhibit, 1909

Hall 78, Non-Metallic Minerals exhibit, 1909

 

African Elephant Group (Loxodonta africana, Proboscidea Elephantidae), taxidermy by Carl Akeley. White plaster miniature sculpture models of 2 figures and horses from Agriculture Building of World’s Columbian Exposition, 1909

African Elephant Group (Loxodonta africana, Proboscidea Elephantidae), taxidermy by Carl Akeley. White plaster miniature sculpture models of 2 figures and horses from Agriculture Building of World’s Columbian Exposition, 1909

 

Hall 72 Platinum, Gold, Silver and Lead cases and shelves on exhibit, 1910

Hall 72 Platinum, Gold, Silver and Lead cases and shelves on exhibit, 1910

 

The Titanotheres family. Wood case with shelves of specimens. Exhibit of about 28 fossil skulls and jaws, Uintah collected by Museum Expedition of 1910

The Titanotheres family. Wood case with shelves of specimens. Exhibit of about 28 fossil skulls and jaws, Uintah collected by Museum Expedition of 1910

 

Botany Herbarium specimens, 1912

Botany Herbarium specimens, 1912

 

Dr. Jesse M. Greenman, Assistant Botany Curator in the Herbarium sitting at his office desk, using a pen to make entries into the catalogue book, 1912

Dr. Jesse M. Greenman, Assistant Botany Curator in the Herbarium sitting at his office desk, using a pen to make entries into the catalogue book, 1912

 

Hall 34 Economic Geology. Overview of lines of several exhibit cases, (Gold, silver, ore, marble etc). Decorative medallions along ceiling, skylight, 1913

Hall 34 Economic Geology. Overview of lines of several exhibit cases, (Gold, silver, ore, marble etc). Decorative medallions along ceiling, skylight, 1913

 

Stamping out a metal die for Diatoms celluloid pattern (Plant Reproduction laboratory), 1913

Stamping out a metal die for Diatoms celluloid pattern (Plant Reproduction laboratory), 1913

 

Milton Copulos, standing near a window, trimming Vanilla model. Stanley Field Plant Reproduction laboratory [Botany], 1913

Milton Copulos, standing near a window, trimming Vanilla model. Stanley Field Plant Reproduction laboratory [Botany], 1913

Milton Copulos, plant model maker, in Botany Plant Reproduction laboratory, trimming model leaves for the Vanilla vine model, 1913

Milton Copulos, plant model maker, in Botany Plant Reproduction laboratory, trimming model leaves for the Vanilla vine model, 1913

 

Botany exhibit case of models of bacteria through microscope, 1914

Botany exhibit case of models of bacteria through microscope, 1914

 

Composite skeleton of fossil vertebrate Smilodon californicus Bovard [sabertooth] skeleton before installation, 1917

Composite skeleton of fossil vertebrate Smilodon californicus Bovard [sabertooth] skeleton before installation, 1917

Delivery truck for The N.W. Harris Public School Extension of Field Museum of Natural History, 1914

Delivery truck for The N.W. Harris Public School Extension of Field Museum of Natural History, 1914

In 1921, the Museum moved to its present site on Chicago Park District property in the center of town. The Museum has undergone a few name changes in its time. In 1905, the name changed to Field Museum of Natural History to honor the Museum’s first major benefactor, Marshall Field, and so also to better reflect its focus on the natural sciences. A further name change occurred between 1943 and 1966 when the museum was known as the Chicago Natural History Museum, before it reverted to the Field Museum of Natural History.

 

Photographs: The Field Museum Library/Flickr