“When is the Grand Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Museum of Science & Industry?” by S.M. O’Connor

The Grand Tree Lighting Ceremony that kicks off Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.  Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light will open at the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry, which I will continue to abbreviate as M.S.I., on Thursday, November 14, 2019 and run through Sunday, January 5, 2019 (the twelfth day of Christmas).[1]  The forty-five-foot-tall Grand Tree is illuminated by approximately 30,000 twinkling lights.  Artificial snow will fall in the Grand Rotunda in the Museum’s Central Pavilion every thirty minutes.

      Staff and over 100 volunteers decorate more than fifty Christmas trees for Christmas Around the World and cabinets with displays representing the Holidays of Light to reflect cultures from all over the world illustrating the ethnic diversity of Chicago (and its suburbs).  This will be the 77th annual Christmas Around the World festival and 25th annual Holidays of Light festival.

      The M.S.I. began hanging flags and celebrating Christmas Around the World during the Second Great World War in support of the United Nations (then an alliance against the Axis Powers) in 1942.  The M.S.I. added an ancillary festival, Holidays of Light, bringing attention to Chinese New Year, Diwali, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanza, Saint Lucia Day, and Shogatsu in 1994.

Figure 1 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is how the Grand Tree looked at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light festival in 2018-19.

Credit: Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This video is about the decoration of the Japanese Christmas Tree for Christmas Around the World in 2016.

Figure 2 Credit: Museum of Science and Industry Caption: The 3rd annual MSI After Hours: Naughty or Nice, an adults-only event, will be on Friday, December 6, 2019 from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

    The adults-only night event MSI After Hours: Naughty or Nice will be on Friday, December 6, 2019 from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  Tickets to the third annual MSI After Hours: Naughty or Nice event are $30.  These tickets cover on-site underground parking, a complimentary drink, and access to exhibits.  This year, the U-505 will be open.  Attendees, who must be twenty-one-years-of-age or over, can explore Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light, take part in a scavenger hunt, take selfies with Santa Claus and Krampus, and dance the night away.  There will also be a cash bar.  Food will be available to purchase.  Tickets are non-refundable.  Click here to purchase tickets.

      The M.S.I. is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. this time of year.  It will be closed on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 28, 2019).  The middle two days of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend – Friday, November 29, 2019 and Saturday, November 30, 2019 – it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  On Sunday, December 1, 2019, it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Normal hours (9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) will resume on Monday, December 2, 2019 and continue through Friday, December 6, 2019 (so during the workweek or school-week); resume again on Monday, December 9, 2019 and continue through Friday, December 13, 2019; and resume again on Monday, December 16, 2019 and continue through Friday, December 20, 2019. Extended hours (9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) will resume the second and third weekends of December (Saturday, December 7, 2019 and Sunday, December 8, 2019 and Saturday, December 14, 2019 and Sunday, December 15, 2019).  The fourth weekend of December – Saturday, December 21, 2019 and Sunday, December 22, 2019 – the M.S.I. will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  On Monday, December 23, 2019, it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  On Tuesday, December 24, 2019 (Christmas Eve), it will be open from 9:30 to 4:00 p.m. because the staff and volunteers will want to get home.  Naturally, it will be closed on Christmas Day (the first Day of Christmas), Wednesday, December 25, 2019.  From Thursday, December 26, 2019 through Monday, December 30, 2019, it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  On Tuesday, December 31, 2019 (New Year’s Eve), it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., because the staff and volunteers will want to get home.  It will open late, at 11:00 a.m., on New Year’s Day (Wednesday, January 1, 2020) and close at 5:30 p.m.  From Thursday, January 2, 2020 and Friday, January 3, 2020, it will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Regular hours (9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) will resume on Saturday, January 4, 2020.  The Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry regularly makes small adjustments to this schedule, so when planning a trip there, check this Webpage and the M.S.I.’s social media for updates. 

EXTENDED HOURS AND EXCEPTIONS

Hours    Dates
Closed Thanksgiving Day
(Thursday, November 28, 2019)
9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Friday, November 29, 2019
Saturday, November 30, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, December 1, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, December 7, 2019
Sunday, December 8, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, December 14, 2019
Sunday, December 15, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Saturday, December 21, 2019
Sunday, December 22, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, December 23, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve
(Tuesday, December 24, 2019)
Closed Christmas Day
(Wednesday, December 25, 2019)
9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Thursday, December 26, 2019
Friday, December 27, 2019
Saturday, December 28, 2019
Sunday, December 29, 2019
 Monday, December 30, 2019
9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. New Year’s Eve
(Tuesday, December 31, 2019)
11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. New Year’s Day
(Wednesday, January 1, 2020)
9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, January 2, 2020
Friday, January 3, 2020

      Often formerly stylized as the “Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago” or the “Museum of Science + Industry” the institution is located at the northern end of the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park, on the south side of 57th Street, between Lake Shore Drive to the east and Cornell Drive to the west, in the East Hyde Park neighborhood of the Hyde Park Community Area (Community Area #41) on the South Side of Chicago.   

      The Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, also known as the Fine Arts Building, which is the last palace from the White City fairgrounds of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), still standing in Jackson Park.[2] The façade is modeled on temples standing on the Acropolis of Athens.  On October 30, 1890, the exposition board named Daniel Hudson Burnham, Sr. (1846-1912) Director of Public Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition, and he appointed Charles B. Atwood (1849-1895) Chief Architect of the World’s Columbian Exposition and Atwood personally designed the Illinois Central Railroad Station, the Peristyle of the Court of Honor, and the Palace of Fine Arts.

      The neoclassical design Atwood developed for the Palace of Fine Arts combined Roman domes with Ionic Greek columns, statues, and frieze panels.  He borrowed the Central Pavilion’s north portico from a painting of a fanciful art museum by Paul-Albert Besnard (1849-1934) that had won the Prix de Rome. Atwood had two assistants: Alexandre Sandier and Ernest R. Graham (1868-1936).  Sandier had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Besnard.  Graham coordinated much of Atwood’s work on-site, including aspects of the Palace of Fine Arts. 

      The Palace of Fine Arts held art treasures from around the world.  To protect the world’s art treasures, unlike the other palaces of the White City, the Palace of Fine Arts had a “fireproof” brick substructure under its staff superstructure.  This precaution was undertaken because world leaders were nervous about placing precious objects on display in a city that had been rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

      The other palaces were made of wood or steel framing clad in a kind of plaster known as “staff.”[3]  Initially, the South Park Commission[4] wanted to tear down the Palace of Fine Arts after The Field Museum of Natural History vacated it in 1920, but sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936) rallied groups in support of restoring the building. Mrs. Albion Headburg organized 6,000 women to donate funds to restore a small part of the Palace of Fine Arts to show what it could look like. They changed the mind of South Park Commissioners, whereupon the South Park Commission asked voters to approve the sale of $5,000,000 in bonds to finance restoration of the building to serve as a science museum, trade school, sculptural art museum, and convention center. Dr. Charles R. Richards, author of The Industrial Museum and Director of the American Association of Museums, attested to the suitability of the Palace of Fine Arts as the future home of a science museum in 1925.

      Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), President of Sears, Roebuck & Company, founded the Museum of Science and Industry in 1926 through The Commercial Club of Chicago, of which he was a member.  [The Commercial Club of Chicago had earlier sponsored the Plan of Chicago (1909) by Burnham and Edward H. Bennett (1874-1954).] Rosenwald expressed a desire to establish an interactive science museum like Oskar von Miller’s Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik (German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology) in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.      

      Designing the restoration and reconstruction of Atwood’s staff superstructure and brick substructure fell to the architectural firm employed by the South Park Commission: Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White – principally to Alfred Shaw (1895-1970).  He also designed the Art Moderne interior. Upon the death of Messrs. Probst and White, another firm, Shaw, Naess, and Murphy, undertook completion of the new interior’s design, beginning in January of 1937. The façade and substructure underwent restoration and reconstruction between 1929 and 1931.  When it became apparent $5,000,000 would be insufficient to restore the building, Julius Rosenwald pledged to pay for completion of the project, in addition to his endowment pledge of $3,000,000.

      The M.S.I. opened in three stages between 1933 and 1940, with the first opening ceremony on July 1, 1933.  These events coincided with Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34), which opened on June 1, 1933.

      OnThursday, October 3, 2019, the Museum of Science and Industry announced that the Board of Trustees had voted to accept a $125,000,000 gift from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund.  M.S.I. executives and board members felt it would consequently be appropriate to change the Museum of Science and Industry’s name to the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry.  A multi-billionaire, Mr. Griffin is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of Citadel, Inc., a Chicago-based hedge fund.  His gift is the largest in the history of the science and technology museum, and one of the largest gifts to any cultural institution in Chicago. 

      The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.  The Website is https://www.msichicago.org/ and the phone number is (773) 684-1414.


[1] For Orthodox Christians, Christmas will not begin until Tuesday, January 7, 2020.

[2] Some of the palaces were disassembled in Chicago and reassembled in state capitals.  The Peristyle and some other structures burnt down on January 8, 1894.  Seven more palaces burnt down on July 5, 1894.  The German building was turned into a bathhouse, was renamed the Liberty Building during the First Great World War, and burned down.  The Japanese Tea House burned down during the Second Great World War.  The Iowa Building became an eyesore and was demolished at the Museum of Science and Industry’s expense.

[3] Staff is a combination of plaster-of-paris, hemp fibers, and Portland cement.

[4] The South Park District was one of twenty-two park districts in Chicago that merged in 1934 to form the Chicago Park District.

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