Museum of Science and Industry (MSI)

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As the largest science museum in the Western hemisphere, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is one of the most popular cultural attractions in the city. Featuring everything from thrilling Omnimax films to a 16-foot tall replica of a human heart, the fun, interactive, and educational attractions at this museum are an excellent addition to any Chicago trip.

History

The Museum of Science and Industry occupies the former home of the Palace of Fine Arts in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. The building itself dates back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and was designed by the D.H. Burnham & Co.’s Charles B. Atwood. The building is unique because it consists of a brick substructure with a plaster façade.

Following the conclusion of the Exposition, this building was home to the Columbian Museum which eventually morphed into the Field Museum of Natural History. In 1920, though, the Field Museum moved to a new purpose-built location in Grant Park. This left the structure at E. 57th Street and Lakeshore Drive empty as different organizations and funding efforts threw around ideas for its use. Though at first there were plans to turn it into an art-based site featuring a sculpture museum and trade school, the Chicago Park Commission instead decided to turn the building into a science museum.

The Commercial Club of Chicago headed up the effort to bring these plans to life and they were helped along enormously by Sears President and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald who gave $3 million to help with the initial startup costs. Giving over $5 million in total, Rosenwald also established the museum organization in 1926. Though it was offered, he asked that his name not appear on the building itself thus leading to the merely descriptive title Museum of Science and Industry rather than the proposed Rosenwald Industrial Museum.

Officially opening its doors in 1933, the museum that visitors see today was actually rolled out to the public in three phases which lasted from that time until 1940. Its first great unveiling, however, was timed to happen in concert with the Century of Progress Exposition, which garnered the new museum quite a bit of press as well as several key employees.

Over the years, the space occupied by the Museum of Science and Industry has remained largely the same even as what is contained within that space has evolved. The biggest change between 1940 and the present day is the relocation of the main entrance from its original position to a detached structure that resembles the pyramid at the Louvre. This new entrance is more fully equipped to handle the volume of visitors that descend upon the museum each year.

Main Attraction

As the largest science museum in America and the entire Western hemisphere, the Museum of Science and Industry has a lot to offer its visitors. This includes over 2,000 separate exhibits in 75 different exhibit halls. Popular permanent exhibits include the Coal Mine which replicates a working, deep-shaft mine and is located in the Central Pavilion. There is also a flight simulator, submarine, and steam locomotive along with interactive activities for children and adults alike.

It is quite literally impossible to see everything in the MSI in one day. However, those who want to do their best to experience the highlights of MSI may want to take the WOW! Tour. This hour-long journey through the belly of the museum is led by an expert guide, provides key insights into some of the most popular exhibits, and gives visitors the chance to taste a little bit of everything that MSI has to offer.

In addition to permanent exhibits, the Museum of Science and Industry also features special exhibitions, Omnimax movies, special events, and live science experiences. They frequently host field trips, community programs, and teacher workshops as well, adding to the educational experience of Chicago natives.

Why It’s a Must-See

There are many, many cultural institutions in the city of Chicago. And, while each includes its own blend of charm, history, and education, MSI offers a truly unique taste of science and industry in one of the most fun and entertaining ways in town. Far from a stuffy science museum, MSI is an experience that will entertain as well as educate, drawing children and adults alike into the wonders of science and industry.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

1. Purchase a ticket from the Museum of Science and Industry when you get there.

2.   .

3. Purchase as part of a money saving package. Popular examples to the right.

4. Purchase a Tourist pass. The Museum of Science and Industry is available on the Go Chicago Card and Chicago CityPass..