Chicago’s Field Museum – Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair Exhibit

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1893 Worlds Fair Exhibit at Field Museum A entrance

1893.  There were only 44 states.  Grover Cleveland took over as President of the United States, replacing Benjamin Harrison.  The first college basketball game was in 1893.  Women won’t get the vote until 1920.  One of the first talking pictures, The Jazz Singer, won’t be made until 1927.  The Lincoln Park zoo was open but it had swans and a bear; the Lion House didn’t open until 1912; and the Primate House in 1927.  The light bulb had just recently been developed.  The War with the Indians had just ended in 1890.  The first commercial film and record wouldn’t be released until 1894.  Volleyball wasn’t invented until 1895.  Aspirin was patented in 1889 but x-rays hadn’t been identified yet. *shocked voice* The zipper hadn’t been invented!

1893 Worlds Fair Exhibit at Field Museum Drawing

1893 was also the year that Chicago hosted the World’s Fair.  The city wanted to show the world it had risen from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire that had destroyed the city in 1871.  I recently went to see the exhibit at The Field Museum sharing many of the artifacts from the Fair that haven’t been seen by the public since the 19th century.  More than 200 artifacts and specimens are displayed including fair memorabilia like tickets and financial ledgers.  At the Field exhibit I learned how amazed visitors were to see the skins of exotic animals that we can now see at most zoos.  Things that are common place today, were unusual strange and new for fair goers.  Without television, internet, or even color photography, unless you traveled and saw things with your own eyes, you had no way of knowing what they looked like.  Cultures of other countries were mysterious and unknown.

1893 Worlds Fair Exhibit at Field Museum Sign

The Field Museum was founded to commemorate the 1893 World’s Fair and it’s original collections were formed by objects displayed at the Fair.  It houses the single largest collection of items displayed at the fair.  One of the most interesting things I saw when I visited the Field Museum’s special exhibit, Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair, was a display of a Peruvian mummy.  New technology now allows for a 3D picturing of the mummy inside the wrappings.

In 1893, visitors saw these Peruvian mummy bundles from the ancient cultures of Chancay.

1893 Worlds Fair Exhibit at Field Museum C Mummy

Today, CT scans allow scientists to explore the bundles’ contents while keeping them intact.  In a touch table near the display you get a 3D image of the mummy!  Just drag your finger along the touch table surface and it spins the view.  The Museum uses new technology to make discoveries on very old objects -why their collections are so very important.

1893 Worlds Fair Exhibit at Field Museum C Mummy Touch Table 1 pre


1893 Worlds Fair Exhibit at Field Museum C Mummy Touch Table Collage

There is also a Field Museum App that can offer enhancements people in 1893 couldn’t even dream of!  Download the app to your iPhone (will be coming soon to Android) and when you see a QR code in the museum, go to the “Discover” part of the app for more information about the item, a 360 degree panorama or other fun surprises like this one at the Glass Sea Cucumber exhibit.

1893 Worlds Fair Exhibit at Field Museum App Glass Sea Cucumbe

Before you leave the museum, don’t forget to say hi to Sue.  She is one of the most memorable sights of Chicago and the best preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex in the world.

1893 Worlds Fair Exhibit at Field Museum Sue

The exhibit, Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair Exhibit, will be at The Field Museum in Chicago from October 25, 2013 through September 7, 2014.  Opening the Vaults is an exhibition series that showcases objects from the Museum’s collections that have rarely—if ever—been on displayed.  Objects in these exhibitions are displayed much like they are stored deep in the Museum’s vaults.

Ticket costs are as follows: $23 for adults, $16 for children (3-11), and $19 for students and seniors (65+). Chicago residents may receive an additional discount ($20 ticket price for adults) by showing ID, or proof of residency.  Parking was $22 in the Museum lot.

Illinois teachers (pre-K through 12) and active military personnel receive free Basic Admission, which can be applied to any admission package. Please show proper identification to any Guest Relations Representative to take advantage of this benefit.

I was selected for this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, however all content and opinions expressed here are my own.


  1. 1

    Kelly, thank you for this post. It was very educational.

  2. 2

    I’ve never been fond of the Field Museum. It always seemed to be pretty boring except for Sue. This seems pretty interesting though so I guess we should head down there again. Thanks for letting me know about the new exhibit.

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