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  • Museum of Science and IndustryMuseum of Science and Industry Chicago, Illinois
    The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is in Chicago, Illinois, located in Jackson Park, which itself is in the Hyde Park neighborhood, next to Lake Michigan. It is found in the Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, that was financed by Julius Rosenwalk, Sears company president and philanthropist, and opened in 1933, in the Century of Progress Exposition. This fantastic museum has some of the most magnificent and amazing exhibits that include a working coal mine, a NASA space capsule used in the Apollo 8 mission, a German U-boat that was captured during WWII, the first diesel-powered streamlined stainless-steel passenger train (Pioneer Zephyr) and a 3500 square foot model railroad. In 2006, it was the fourth busiest attraction in the city, and the next year moved up to number 2. The former palace wasn't like the other White City structures, since it was built with a brick substructure under a plaster facade and contained the Columbian Museum which then evolved into the Field Museum of Natural History, and when that moved into a new building in downtown Chicago in 1920, the collection was moved and the site left empty. Lorado Taft, professor of the Art Institute of Chicago began a campaign to renovate the building and make it another art museum, devoted to only sculpture. The building would be used to contain a technical school, the sculpture museum and other venues; but after a couple of years, it was decided to make the old building a new science museum. During that period in the city, the Commercial Club of Chicago wanted to start a science museum in the city, with Julius Rosenwald leading his fellow club members to donate $3 million to convert the palace. The exterior would be re-cast in limestone, so that it would look like it did in 1893, and the inside was replaced with a new Art Moderne style designed by Alfred P. Shaw. The magnificent museum contains more than 2000 exhibits that are showcased in 75 main halls, with numerous permanent displays.  Other major works on display besides those mentioned above include Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle, a silent film star and stock market investor, the Great Train Robbery is what the 3500 square foot model railroad depicts, going from San Francisco to Chicago. The Transportation Zone contains exhibits about land and air transportation, which houses the first train to travel at over a 100 mph, the 999 Empire State Express, and two WWII warplanes that were given to them by the British government; a Ju 87 R-2/Trop, Stuka dive-bomber, one of just two left complete in the world, and a Supermarine Spitfire. There are also numerous U.S. Navy warships on display and a flight simulator for the F-35 Lightning II. One, most unusual display is a human heart, big enough to walk through, so that people can see how it looks inside and outside.

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  • Oriental Institute MuseumOriental Institute Museum Chicago, Illnois
    The Oriental Institute, or OI, was started in 1919, and is actually the University of Chicago's archeology museum and research center for ancient near eastern studies, and is located in a conspicuous Art-Deco Gothic structure that was designed by the firm of Mayers, Murray & Phillip. It was built in 1930 and dedicated in 1931. This wonderful museum houses artifacts that were obtained from actual digs in Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Iran and Israel. Some of the more well known relics include the famous Megiddo Ivories, a collection of Luristan Bronzes, a monumental statue of King Tutankhamun, different treasures from the old Persian capital of Persepolis, and a huge 40 ton human headed winged bull or Lamassu from Khorsabad, the capital of Sargon II. It is free although they ask for donations. Even with unlimited funds and likewise discoveries, to attempt to assemble another collection like this would be impossible since the government of these countries no longer allows foreign archeologists to come, dig and take home any part of their discoveries or findings. To try to begin an archeological dig in Iran would be impossible to even think about, much less try, as well as in the country of Iraq, where we are still fighting terrorists. These conditions were available in the 19th and 20th centuries, when the majority of these collections were obtained, even up to the 1930s, but then new antiquity laws were created. Like the name says, the Oriental Institute is today, a center of research on the near east cultures, with continuing excavations going on in many countries in the Fertile Crescent; that have allowed the continued understanding of the origins of human civilization. It was the OI founder and first director, James Henry Breasted, who termed the phrase, "fertile crescent" and many has confided that he was the real model for Indiana Jones, or another member of the institute, Robert Braidwood. One of the major projects that was just finished is the 23 volume Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, that was started in 1921 by Breasted, and finished by Ignace Gelb and Edward Chiera, who was led by Dr. Erica Reiner for 44 years. This marvelous cultural reference work is an exciting addition to the museum and will help many researchers for years to come, helping them understand the history, culture and lives of the early Assyrians. Other works that are like this one include the Chicago Hittite dictionary, as well as one for Demotic, an Egyptian language from around the 5th century BC.

January 11, 2011