Did you know that earlier this year we celebrated our 163rd birthday? Ever since our founding as the Chicago Academy of Sciences on January 13, 1857, we’ve used our 350,000-piece collection to bring Chicagoans closer to nature. Keep reading to explore our collections and start making your own!
P.S. Next time you take a walk around your block, bring some natural items back in with you to start your own collection! Be sure to put them through the freeze-thaw cycle to get rid of unwanted pests and follow the IDNR guidelines.
Explore our online collections!
Our collections team put together an online exhibit featuring a variety of specimens (specimens are animals, plants, minerals, etc. that are used as an example of their species for scientific study or display). Use the Google Arts and Culture online portal to explore these plants, animals, and fossils virtually. If your young explorer asks whether a piece is real, this FAQ page might come in handy!
Guiding Question: What are some of the specimens that the Nature Museum has? Are they things you recognize? Have you seen them in real life?
Take a look at our Collections Facility
Ever wonder what happens at our off-site Collections Facility? We rarely open it up to the public, but we invited our friends at Chicago Reader to check it out with our senior director of collections, Dawn, as their guide. Click here to check it out.
Guiding Question: What kinds of things are in the Nature Museum collections? Where do you think they came from? Why do you think they have them?
Chicago Collections virtual exhibit
Our friends at the Chicago Collections Consortium have launched a digital exhibit called Wild in the City: Chicagoland’s Urban Ecology. It explores the interaction of urban and natural environments in the Chicago region dating back to the 1850s. It even uses some of our archival materials! Check it out here.
Guiding Question: How has Chicago changed over the last 200 years? What has stayed the same? How have the animals changed?
Make your own fossils!
The fossils in our collection date back to the time of the dinosaurs, but you don’t need that much time to make some fossils of your own! Use this salt dough recipe and then use plants, sticks, and other natural objects to make your own fossils! (Plus, add them to your pressed plants/plant rubbings to begin your own natural history collection!)
Grownup Strategy Highlight: Do some sorting!
Collections are a great way to compare and contrast different objects. Have your scientist use their collection to do some sorting! A closed sort gives your scientist some guidance (“sort your items based on color”). An open sort allows your scientist to come up with categories as they go. See how creative they can get!
Behind the scenes!
There’s always something going on at our Collections Facility, and our senior director of collections, Dawn, does an amazing job cataloguing it. Check out some behind-the-scenes shots over on her Instagram.