Museum of Science and Industry

If you plan to visit the Hyde Park neighborhood, be sure to check out the Museum of Science and Industry. The museum edifice was the former Fine Arts Building, whose significance lies in the fact that it is the only existing building from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Architectual experts believe that survival of the building can be attributed to the durable building materials from which the Museum of Science and Industry was constructed. These materials lasted longer than the materials that were used for other Exposition buildings.

The Museum of Science and Industry building was once the home of the Field Museum of Natural History. However, when a new Field Museum building opened closer to the downtown in 1921, the former site was left unoccupied. A few years later, the building was selected as the site for a new science museum, and the exterior of what would become the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry building was re-cast in stone. This served to retain its 1893 Beaux Arts appearance. However, the interior was completely redesigned in Art Deco style.

Sears, Roebuck & Company chairman Julius Rosenwald, who pledged $3 million to the institution, established the Museum of Science and Industry in 1926. He eventually donated over $5 million to the project. Although he insisted that his name not appear on the building, for the first few years of the museum's existence, it was still referred to as the Rosenwald Industrial Museum. Rosenwald's primary goal was to create an interactive museum in the style of the Deutsches Museum.

In their quest to find their first director, the museum staff conducted a nationwide search. Eventually, the board of directors had the good fortune of recruiting Waldemar Kaempffert, who was the science editor for the New York Times. Kaempffert proved to be a great benefit to the museum. He developed close ties with the science departments of the University of Chicago, who were more than happy to supply significant funds for the various exhibits. The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago opened to the public in 1933 during the Century of Progress Exposition. The theme of the fair was technical innovation.

Today, visitors to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry can explore a variety of exhibits. Take Flight recreates a San Francisco to Chicago flight using a real Boeing 727 jet plane that was donated by United Airlines. The Coal Mine re-creates a working mine inside the museum. Recently, the Museum of Science and Industry opened a new exhibit space for the U-505 Submarine, which is the only German submarine that was captured by the US in World War II. The Great Train Story is a 3,500 square foot model railroad that tells the story of transportation from Seattle to Chicago.

Today, the Museum of Science and Industry has remained faithful to Rosenwald's vision of an interactive museum. For example, Genetics: Decoding Life looks at how genetics have an impact on human and animal development. ToyMaker 3000 is a working assembly line that lets visitors order a toy top and watch as it is made. As such, the Museum of Science and Industry combines a learning experience in a fun and enjoyable atmosphere.

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