Leave it to Chicago’s museums to come up with great reasons for past visitors to come back for another experience. One exhibit leaps into late spring with amphibians from all over the world and another will have visitors wanting a personal robot. A magnifying glass might be helpful at an unusual show of American Indian art. A reporter’s curiosity would be good at a historical exhibit when seeing objects that could tell interesting stories if they could speak. Chicago’s architecture frequently is a show topic but what about an exhibit on future styles influenced by Twitter and other communication forms? These are five fun and fascinating museum shows to take in this summer.
Museum of Science and Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
Date: May 21, 2015 through Jan. 3, 2016
A new Museum of Science exhibit proves that robots are already accomplishing plenty and will do even more in the future. The exhibit features actual robots such as PARO, a baby seal used in therapy, Baxter, an industrial robot, and the TOPY Crawler who can manage stairs. Robotics are already used in industry but imagine a robot that can enter a dangerous situation such as a burning building. Or think what Star Wars robots could accomplish and then wonder how you might use a robot as a companion or to help around the house or office. Find out what you can get a robot to do at the Build-a-Bot station and test your own abilities against those of robots at another station. Try to teach a robot movements or try maneuvering a robot.
1200 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Date: Starts May 16, 2015
Frogs, salamanders, newts and even the rarely seen caecilians will swim, hop, paddle and otherwise take over the Shedd Aquarium’s special exhibit space beginning in the middle of May, 2015. It will be easy to spot the four-foot long salamander and a three-foot long amphibian model where viewers can see into a frog’s body without going to a biology lab. Gather around amphibians from Australia to Asia and the Americas to Europe to watch them cavort in water, on branches and plants. They are fascinating but also watch the exhibit’s videos for significant, characteristic actions in case an amphibian isn’t showing off at the moment. Among the reasons the Shedd is showcasing amphibians is that in several regions they are in crisis because they are losing their habitat to climate changes, commercial ventures, pesticides and invasive fungus. An interactive map highlights projects underway in the United States to help amphibians.
The Secret Lives of Objects
Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
Date: Mar. 21, 2015 through 2018
It’s all about stories. Instead of just pulling objects from Chicago History Museum’s vast archives, the treasures chosen for the Secret Lives of Objects each have a story to tell. Director of Curatorial Affairs, John Russick, wants visitors to understand that the History Museum’s objects are connections to the past. Instead of merely displaying the items in cases, Russick and his staff turned to Manual Cinema, a Chicago company that develops theater-type narratives to have the objects whisper their stories as if their tales were secrets. Go to see and hear such objects as the Pump Room’s Booth One that Frank Sinatra liked when he was in town and the lamp responsible for the 1903 Iroquois Theater fire. To see more, watch Manual Cinema’s 20-minute film that brings life to some of the object’s stories.
Related: Best Museum Tours In Chicago
Chatter: Architecture Talks Back
The Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
Date: April 11, 2015 through July 12, 2015
Chicago is known as a great city for superb architecture, making it the perfect city to look at what might be expected tomorrow and how architecture might be influenced by modern forms of communication. The past is often drawn upon for inspiration but what if Twitter and Instagram now enter the playing field? Architects don’t build buildings, they present concepts, according to Karen Kice, the Neville Bryan Assistant Curator of the Department of Architecture and Design. She asked five young architects/firms: Fake Industries Architectural Agonism, John Szot Studio, Erin Besler, formlessfinder and Bureau Spectacular to come up with possibilities. The results range from relationships to past styles to current communication forms and future technological developments. They vary from the hand-drawn to robotic and digital works visitors will find in Galleries 284 and 285. In addition, “Mas Context” Director Iker Gil contributed an installation in Gallery 283.
Miniature Artwork-Enormous Appeal
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
3001 Central St.
Evanston, IL 60201
Date: April 4, 2015 to early April, 2016
As the title of a new exhibit at the Mitchell Museum in Evanston implies, the objects displayed are greatly admired for their craftsmanship even though they are tiny representations of their utilitarian and decorative counterparts. They are dolls, silver-work, jewelry, pottery, baskets, tools and fiber art from American Indian and First Nation communities in the United States and Canada. They range from teaching aids to ceremonial and collector’s pieces and from traditional to contemporary designs. In some instances, the full-size object is next to a miniature. No matter what the size, the dexterity involved is remarkable.
Related: Best Places For Antiques In Chicago
Jodie Jacobs is a veteran journalist who loves writing about Chicago, art, theater, museums and travel. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.