MSI showcases artifacts from throughout its history
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The Museum of Science and Industry turned 80 this year, and it's celebrating by sifting through its collection of 35,000 artifacts for the 80 items that best represents its history.
Spanning two galleries, the "80 at 80" exhibit showcases inventions from the 1800s, displays from the museum's opening in 1933 and today's cutting-edge creations.
"80 at 80"Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, (773) 684-1414; msichicago.org
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily through Feb. 2
Admission: $18, $11 for kids
"We wanted to really show the museum's DNA," said Kathleen McCarthy, director of collections and head curator.
The Museum of Science and Industry is the last surviving structure from the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition and is showing off that heritage by displaying a painting of the Palace of Fine Arts that was donated by Daniel Burnham's son along with a vase that was on display at the exhibition. The exhibits also are lined with guardrails used at the world's fair.
Other artifacts date to the 1933 Century of Progress International Exhibition, including a model of the fair and a probability machine that was showcased there.
Items like an 1872 dog treadmill, which was used to put a pet to work providing energy for a farm, show that while solutions have changed, inventors can work to tackle the same problems for 150 years.
Alternate energy is still a very important topic and probably always will be," McCarthy said.
Many objects are being shown for the first time and others are being brought back like a reproduction of a giant talking Paul Bunyan statue that was originally displayed during the 1950s "World of Hardwoods" exhibit.
"It's one of the things that people ask about all the time because they remember it from when they were kids," McCarthy said.
A display from 1933 showing all the components used in making a pencil, challenges visitors to think about the complexity of everyday objects.
Other displays show how science influenced other aspects of people's lives throughout the years like a Space Race card game from 1967 and rocket base toys from 1960.
Another returning exhibit is the Transparent Anatomical Manikin from the 1970s that served as the inspiration for the cover of Nirvana's album In Utero.
The Museum of Science and Industry has always been dedicated to offering a hands-on experience, and "80 at 80" is no exception.
There are seven iPads that visitors can use to see detailed images of the artifacts and learn more about their history. They also can press buttons to activate items like a strobe light and music water experiment from 2006 that shows how a change in illumination can make droplets appear to slow down.
The exhibit also is being used to show off some of the newest additions to the museum's collection, such as Google glass and a Velodyne LiDAR sensor where visitors can step in front of a screen and see how sensors can add them into an image the same way they absorb their surroundings and provide information to self-driving cars.
Another new item, a camera phone designed by recording artist Will.i.am, is displayed in the same room as a 1949 switchboard telephone and a phone from the 1960s.
The exhibit also shows how far technology has advanced by matching an 1882 typewriter with a 2000 Apple computer.
"When something is invented it's never the end of the story, it's the beginning of the story," McCarthy said.
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