Museum of Science and Industry celebrates its own history with a new exhibit

Posted on June 27th, 2013 by

A new exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry commemorates the museum’s 80th anniversary by displaying 80 artifacts that tell the story of the Chicago institution since its opening in 1933. In a previous blog, we told the story of the museum’s inspiration, by Julius Rosenwald and his son William while visiting the industrial museums of Europe, and the building’s transformation from the 1893 World’s Fair to a temporary home for the Field Museum, to an abandoned white elephant on the city’s south side to the beautifully restored and rebuilt Beaux Arts masterpiece that has housed the MSI ever since.


The derelict MSI building after its previous tenant, the Field Museum of Natural History, vacated it around 1920
Photo credit: Field Museum (flickr)

In the Chicago Sun-Times, a longtime volunteer at the museum, who attended its opening in 1933 at the age of 5, reminisced that the only exhibit present for the “soft opening” (as part of the 1933 “Century of Progress” World’s Fair) was the coal mine. The working coal mine, imported from Johnston City in southern Illinois, was part of Rosenwald’s original conception for the museum and remains a popular exhibit to this day.


The historic coal mine exhibit in the Museum of Science and Industry
Photo Credit: Lenny Flank, 2012 (flickr)

Two interviewees from our film, The Rosenwald Schools were on hand for the opening of the exhibit: Julius Rosenwald’s grandson and biographer, Peter Ascoli, and Kathleen McCarthy, director of exhibits and collections at the museum, who we interviewed in December. You can read more about the opening at the Sun-Times.


The Museum of Science and Industry today
Photo Credit: Brent Newhall, 2011 (flickr)