“Christmas Around the World, Giant Dome Theater to Close Sunday”

The twelfth day of Christmas, Sunday, January 5, 2020, will be the last day to attend the Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light festivals at Chicago’s Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.). This year, Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light have the theme “Holiday Together.”  Sunday will also be the last day to build circuits at the Makers United Ornament Workshop.  Sponsored by ArcelorMittal, Makers United requires a separate ticket.  Children under twelve must be accompanied by a Makers United-ticketed chaperone. 

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Figure 1 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Over 45,000 twinkling lights illuminate the Grand Tree at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World.

      Further, Sunday will be the last day to see the documentaries Apollo 11: First Steps Edition, Hidden Pacific, and Secrets of the Universe.  The Giant Dome Theater in the M.S.I.’s Henry Crown Space Center will close on Monday, January 6, 2020 and re-open in March.

      Now in its fiftieth year, the annual Black Creativity festival will open later this month.  It began as an art festival and is devoted these days to Black African-American “innovations in science, technology engineering, art and medicine.”  Black Creativity will open on Monday, January 20, 2020 and run through Sunday, March 1, 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.[1] Thus, the building turned 125 years old in 2018.  Daniel Hudson Burnham, Sr. (1846-1912), Director of Public Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition, named Charles B. Atwood (1849-1895) as 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 façade is modeled on temples standing on the Acropolis of Athens.  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.”[2] 

      Initially, the South Park Commission[3] 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 M.S.I. will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today, Friday, January 3, 2020.  Tomorrow, Saturday, January 4, 2020, the M.S.I. will revert to normal hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

     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.


ENDNOTES

[1] 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.

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

[3] 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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