A great friend of mine invited me to an event at the Field Museum this week, and although the event was a party for Drupal web developers, I wore my teacher hat and I will share with you some great facts I learned while at the museum:
Did you know that the Field Museum has about 26 million items? The researchers joked that the collection is so vast, the museum actually lost an entire whale skeleton for a few years!
Only a fraction of the items that the museum owns are on display for the public. The remainder are housed and catalogued underneath the museum and ground between the museum and Lake Michigan. The Field Museum began after the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exhibition. Items on display from around the globe started the collection. The museum continues to collect thousands of items each day. What makes the collection so unique is that many of the items that the museum has are no longer able to be collected in our modern world. Many artifacts are from rare or endangered species or from environments and habitats that are too fragile to collect scientific specimens.
During our visit, we were given a very rare behind the scenes tour. We viewed the area were bird specimens are collected, catalogued, and 'cleaned' using a rare beetle. The flesh-eating beetles from the most arid part of Africa strip the specimen to the bone. The beetles have been a part of the museum for over 80 years. They cannot survive out of their controlled environment so there is a great symbiotic relationship. They thrive in the controlled environment. They constantly get fed. They will not destroy any part of the collection because they cannot survive in the other parts of the museum.
I was also lucky enough to meet some of the great people who worked in the education department at the museum. They shared with me a great program they have for Professional Development. The "Field Ambassadors" are a learning community that make a commitment to attend a handful of workshops at the museum throughout the year. They are asked to bring knowledge back to their schools and create a project with students to connect to the museum. This program is free and a great opportunity for any science teacher!
Adding visual supports to lessons? Check out the photograph archives of the museum!
Virtual field trips. Who needs to schedule a bus and collect permission slips when many online exhibits are available from the museum. Check out the online exhibits that highlight many of the current exhibits at the museum.
Happy "Field" tripping!