Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Something Good Brewing at the Field Museum!

Hopefully, by now, you have gleaned this point from us – but museums have come quite a ways from quiet, stuffy places where you can walk but not run and look at but not touch the things behind the glass.  A museum is not a place reserved only for field trips to be led by stern, stuffy people droning on facts.  Museum people are constantly finding new ways of redefining the word: be it updating public spaces, bringing the museum to non-conventional spaces, or simply taking you behind the glass.

In a recent push to stay contemporary, many museums have developed “night series programming,” offering a chance for 20- and 30-something museum-goers to be ushered into the museum in a more social setting (not to be confused with the very cool overnight programming for younger children that many museums also bolster).  Fortunately for Chicagoans, all of the local big museums offer many such events—and we were pleased to go
Jim and Jason Ebel (the Two Brothers)
to the Field Museum’s newest such offering, “Hop to It! At the Field.”   The Field Museum collaborated with Two Brothers Brewery and chef Cleetus Friedman to create Cabinet of Curiosities – a very tasty white IPA with hints of coriander and citrus. This event was held very simply to celebrate the release of that creation - and what fun it was!

The night started with the food pairings Friedman created for the event, as well as a generous tasting of the new release Cabinet of Curiosities. For all of the other beer-loving museum-goers out there, this event was certainly worth the money – guests were provided 6 (six!!) drink tickets upon entry, which allowed you to get a taste of everything they had to offer on tap at the Field Bistro, as well as a commemorative glass celebrating the release (if you got to the event early enough).  The Curator of Anthropology, Jim Philips, was on hand to give a rare intimate demonstration of ancient methods of beer production and storage.  The Two Brothers themselves then spoke for a bit to explain the collaboration process with the Field Museum in creating their new brew, there was another toast, and everyone was able to move into the Stanley Field Hall to enjoy more food, drinks, and live music.

In Conclusion:  Cabinet of Curiosities is great!

This is only the second such event the Field Museum has done, but you would never know it.  As far as the nightlife events at museums go (which are becoming ever more popular), this is the best one I’ve attended.  This event felt different than some of the other “after dark” events I’ve been to at the museums – meaning it was a little bit more sophisticated, lacking the enormous lines for the bathrooms, and fortunately devoid of (most) of the sloppy drunken socialites.  It was organized, thoughtful, and fun, so they have definitely brewed up a good thing!  We’re looking forward to the next event they host.  But in the meantime, you don’t even have to go the South Loop for a taste of the Field Museum – you can try Cabinet of Curiosities now at your local supermarket!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

This Summer: Stay in Touch!

You might have spotted this elsewhere (everywhere) in our work, but here at Museum Explorer, we are fond of the Head Heart Hands approach.  That is to say, we engage the visitor through their Head by targeting visitor interests, inviting exploration and inquiry, and giving them something to think about; we engage the visitor’s Heart by appealing to visitor awareness in ways that inspire personal connections, and giving them something to care about; and we engage the visitor’s Hands by stimulating curiosity with interactive learning techniques that encourage discovery and sharing, by giving them something to do.  But it’s fun to be on the other side of the exhibit as well, so you can imagine our delight at getting to experience this approach in museums as visitors.

We’ve stopped by a few museums already this summer (and more to come), and have had a few chances to go beyond the glass and experience museums first hand (!).  You read about our trip to the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum, but what we forgot to mention was our chance to get in touch with the nature!  In the Istock Family Look-in Lab, we got up close and personal with a snake from the museum’s “living collection,” which you can see up top.  Volunteers were there to explain how to properly pet the reptile, as well as to offer tips on the regions it lived in.  Unfortunately we got so wrapped up in getting to pet the animal that we forgot what kind of snake it is! 

At the Shedd Aquarium, it is time again for their “Stingray Touch” experience.  Note that the Shedd refers to it as an experience rather than an exhibit, because you pretty much get to dive right in.  The stingrays, housed outside of the museum on a beautiful patio, circle the shallow pool as visitors – like us! – get the chance to pet them.  It’s an odd thing, petting a tropical cownose ray while overlooking downtown Chicago, but it is certainly a great experience to be able to get close to an animal not encountered in everyday life.  This is the closest you will probably ever come to being the lucky scuba diver in the tank at the “Caribbean Reef”!  Beyond the stingrays, the Shedd offers visitors the chance to touch live Sturgeon “At Home on the Great Lakes,” and Starfish in the “Sea Star Touch” at the “Polar Play Zone.”  If you’re willing to submerge your hand in freezing water for a few minutes, it’s definitely worth reaching out for! 

But how can you really understand what we’re talking about if you don’t experience for yourself?  Get out there and take matters into your own hands!