Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chicago Journals: Marshall Field's Museum

When I walked into the Fields Museum, I was the first one there and I know this because they were unlocking the doors as I arrived. I paid over twelve dollars for the privilege of setting foot inside the doors and although I probably got my money's worth, I have been to a lot better museums for a lot less money. Not to mention the fact that only later did I discover that I had to pay even more money to see the exhibit on Darwin and other special exhibits, which I ended up skipping.

After paying my admission, I took the obligatory photo of Sue, the only thing I remembered from my first trip her 25 years ago, and then headed off to see the Ancient Americas exhibit which happened to be the first one I came too. Instantly I was disappointed, as there seemed to be more emphasis on large dumbed down signs than informative exhibits. In fact, the most informative part of the exhibit was little alcoves where film clips were played on infinite loops on various parts of ancient American culture. Over the course of the day, I stopped and watched these clips in various exhibits and never once had anyone else stop and join me, all preferring to trudge on past without even a passing glance. Who can blame them really? Why pay all that money for something to watch something that they could easily show on PBS?

All told, I spent over a couple hours in the Americas exhibit and knew that I was going to have to step up the pace if I wanted to see the rest of the museum exhibits. So I started picking the ones that most interested me starting next with the one on Ancient Egypt and working my way down the pecking order. About halfway through the Egypt exhibit just after seeing 23 mummies on display, my feet were crying out for a rest so I thought I would look for some secluded corner to sit down and perhaps catch up on my journal writing. I walked around two corners and much to my shock, found myself standing at the entrance to McDonald's in the middle of a museum. Perhaps the mummies dined a lot on Big Macs and thus explained why they are so well preserved. Although not my ideal choice, I selected a seat in the back and wrote.

Rested up, I tackled the rest of the museum but it was loosing my interest fast. Plagues of children had descended into the museum and were running everywhere through the exhibits and making lots of noise. It hit me that Fields along with other museums have changed over to cater to children, the very segment of our population who gain the least from going there. I think one girl summed it up best when she rushed by me at the end of one exhibit exclaiming to her friend, "they told me it would take an hour and a half to see this exhibit and it only took me five minutes!" There was a very small museum compared to the Field's Museum that I used to go to a few times a year where I used to live in eastern Iowa. It only cost me a couple bucks to get in and was geared towards adults with in depth displays and none of the trinket penny molding machines or gift shops on the premises. The kids still ran through it just like at Fields but I as an adult got a lot more from it. I remember seeing the exhibit on Antarctic exploration and leaving just in awe. Nothing awed me at Fields.

Finally after being trampled by yet another herd of wild children, I decided I had my fill and started looking for the exit. I came across a plastic dinosaur-molding machine that spit out a plastic version of Sue if I fed it $1.50 in quarters. Deciding that I could at least salvage my trip by getting something for Little Abbey, I plugged my quarters and watched it make me a dinosaur. When I pulled it out, I was dismayed to see that my version of Sue the dinosaur had no head. I thought about just throwing it away and consider it a lesson learned but by then I wanted to get something back from a museum that had cheated me. I asked young man at a tiny gift shop where I could get a refund and he directed me to the main gift shop. I went into the cavernous gift shop that took up more room than a full sized basketball court to hock overpriced crap to swarms of children and finally found someone who traded in my headless Sue for one with a head. Evidently that machine never works, so they make a bunch to swap out. No word on why they didn't unplug it or put an out of order sign on it.

With my anatomically correct dinosaur, I staggered out the door and into the 'fresh' Chicago air. I had planned to walk back downtown using the Sears Tower as my landmark and take a look at "The Rookery's" Frank Lloyd Wright designed atrium but decided against it. I didn't know exactly where it was and I just didn't have the energy anymore. So I walked back to the intersection but crossed only one side of it this time betting that their would be a entrance on this side of the street to the mass transit system station on Roosevelt. I was right. I reversed my steps and finally ended up back at the hotel room around four to wait for my wife to get home from her test. We had dinner plans that night and I couldn't wait.

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