Tag Archives: museum

Field trip at the Chicago Field Museum!

2 Apr

I took a little break before attending two conferences to visit the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Personally, I am a huge fan of natural history museums in general. Job-wise, it is an opportunity to see what kind of demonstrations and interactive elements museums incorporated into their exhibits. I simply could not miss the opportunity to visit the Field Museum.


The Field Museum was originally born as the Columbia Museum of Chicago after the famous World’s Columbian Expo on September 16, 1893. It was later renamed as The Field Museum after Marshall Field, the owner of several department stores in Chicago at the time and the major benefactor of the museum when it was first founded. The Field Museum is one of the largest Natural History Museum in the US. It hosts over 24 million specimens and objects, and attracts more than 2 million visitors every year. I was told that at any given time, we see less than 10% of all the specimens available at the museum. Pretty impressive.


The Field Museum has a large collection of specimens

Some students visiting the Field Museum. The kid in the photo totally photobombed this :)

Some students visiting the Field Museum. The kid in the photo totally photobombed this haha.

Here are some highlights for me:

Sue the T. rex – Sue is a famous Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton at the Field Museum because it is the most complete T. rex skeleton discovered to date. “It” (the gender of the T. rex is actually unknown) was named after its discoverer  Sue Hendrickson.

At the Field Museum with Sue

Photo in front of Sue!


Sue’s skull weighs 600 pounds, which is too heavy to put onto the full skeleton, so it is actually sitting in a glass cover on the second floor balcony.

The Evolving Planet Exhibit – The Field Museum very wisely incorporated all the dinosaur skeletons into the Evolving Planet Exhibit, so we get to see how dinosaurs and us all fit together in the grand scheme of evolution. Some natural history museums failed to do so, and for me it doesn’t quite make sense to just see all the skeletons in one room without knowing how they are part of the earth’s history. Well done, Field Museum!

I see that someone is having a fascinating time with exhibit...

I see that someone is having a fascinating time with exhibit…

Inside Ancient Egypt – This exhibit is in the basement of the Field Museum (how fitting haha!). It hosts a collection of mummies, as well as the interesting diorama of mummy making…



Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair – The Columbia World’s Fair hosted 65,000 exhibits in ~200 buildings to celebrate Columbia arriving in America 400 years prior. It was considered the event to see in a life time, and many spent all their savings just for a ticket to the fair. After the World’s Fair, some exhibits remained and became part of the Field Museum collection today. You can find highlights of the exhibit here on the exhibit website.

Using New Technology – Some cases have a QR code, which you can scan with your smart phone for more information. You can also download the museum app and design your own museum tour. Did I mention that there was free Wi-Fi in the museum?

QRCode  MuseumApp

Museum Discount Days – It turns out that Illinois residents can visit several museums and public attractions in Chicago for free on specific days. If you have read my post about museum admission fees, you would know how much I appreciate these discount days can do for science education and outreach.


The Brain Scoop – Okay, this is not really part of the physical “Museum”, but we (conference attendees) were invited to the Nerd Night Chicago before one of my conferences. I had the opportunity to meet Emily Graslie, the Chief Curiosity Correspondent of the Field Museum and the person behind the Museum’s Brain Scoop YouTube channel, in person!


She makes really cool “behind the scene” videos about the Field Museum. I highly recommend that you subscribe to the YouTube channel.

The Field Museum is definitely a must when you visit Chicago. I had an absolutely wonderful time there. Just make sure that you have plenty of time…especially if you are like me, who would attempt to read the descriptions for all the exhibit cases…


Back from Portland, back to blogging

10 Jun

If you read my previous post, you would know that I spent my May organizing multiple conferences, public lectures, and outreach events. After we wrapped up CASCA (Canadian Astronomical Society Annual Conference), I escaped to Portland so that I could force myself to stop checking work emails.

Of course, I was really lying to myself when I said that I was going to stay away from work!! One of the reasons for going to Portland was to visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) – part to research demos and activities that we could use for our upcoming summer camps, and part to act like a kid and play with science toys (with a legit reason, even though I am about 20 years older than most of the visitors there).

I had fond memories of science museums. Growing up in Taiwan, I was a frequent visitor of the  massive Taiwan National Museum of Natural Science when I was little. I am also a huge fan of the London Science Museum – you probably won’t see another person as excited about science artifacts as I was. While the passion might have faded a little because of age and education, once in a while the excitement comes back to hit me in the head. I was originally planning to spend 2-3 hours at the OMSI, but ended up staying there for the whole afternoon.

The most awesome demo I saw during my visit was this one – The  Harmonic Pendulum. The wonderful demo person (I don’t remember your name! If you see this please email me as I would like to credit you) did the demo twice so that I could record it. Watch the timer above and observe how the pattern of the pendulum came about:

I am no physicist (which is even better, because I think I get amazed by physics demos more so than the physicists I work with everyday), but if you are interested here is the description of the demo and some calculations.

 Harmonic Pendulum Explanation   Calculation for the Harmonic Pendulum

Next up is a demo with the strobe light (if you don’t like spinning objects or lights going on and off, this is not really for you, but it is rather mild). It was simply two ball bearings stuck together by epoxy glue, but it’s so much fun to watch:

(Updated on June 21. I recently learned that the spinning ball bearings have a name – the Hurricane balls. There is a stack exchange question/answer regarding how they can spin so fast, and a link to a pretty awesome YouTube video)

And then the orbit table, which a graduate student in my department is now thinking about making:

Other than checking out the demos and activities, I also spent about an hour touring the USS Blueback (SS-581) submarine – yes, there is a submarine next to the science museum! How cool is that? And then another hour watching the IMAX movie “Hubble.”

So here is my update about the trip. This also serves as a post that I can write up quickly so to get back into the rhythm of blogging. Thanks for staying around and more posts are coming!

Me standing in front of an Infrared Camera with my camera

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