“Field Museum Names New President”

Following an eight-month-long search, The Field Museum of Natural History announced today that Julian Siggers, Ph.D. will become the next President and Chief Executive Officer in September. He will succeed Richard Lariviere, Ph.D. who has led The Field Museum since September of 2012 and announced his plan last summer to retire in August of 2020. 

An archeologist, Dr. Siggers is currently Williams Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, a post he has held since July of 2012. Previously, he was Vice President, Programs, Education and Content Communication of the Royal Ontario Museum from 2007 to 2012.  He earned his doctorate at the University of Toronto.

“I’m delighted with the search committee’s choice of Julian, and I’m grateful to our trustees for guiding the museum to a new leader who will continue the Field’s mission to build a brighter future rich in nature and culture,” stated Dr. Lariviere.  “Julian is a museum leader who has shown how innovation, engaging storytelling, and inclusively work together for powerful impact. He will be perfect for the Field Museum.”

“It’s crucial to talk about science in a way that engages and includes everybody, not just people with a scientific background,” stated Mr. Siggers. “Understanding science and anthropology makes us better able to make good decisions for our planet, It makes us more welcoming to people who are different from us, and it’s just fun—nobody should be left out from how amazing science is, and it’s the job of museums to make sure that everyone is welcomed in to learn.”

A fourteen-person search committee comprised of business and civic leaders and Field Museum scientists and trustees unanimously nominated Julian Siggers. The Board of Trustees elected him President and C.E.O. at a meeting held Tuesday, April, 21, A.D. 2020.

“Julian combines a deep love for the wonder of scientific discovery with a record of leading museums to be vibrant and inclusive resources belonging to the whole community,” stated David Hiller, the chair of the search committee, a Field Museum trustee, and the recently-retired President and C.E.O. of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Since his 2012 appointment as Director at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, Siggers oversaw the renovation of 75% of the museum’s galleries and public spaces, including the Ancient Middle Eastern galleries. The Field Museum stated, “He also established the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials, an interdisciplinary center for training students in archaeological techniques, guided the museum to implement new programs that welcome diverse audiences, including programs in which refugees act as docents giving more information and context about galleries focusing on the countries they’re from.” Significantly, Siggers led a $100,000,000 fundraising campaign.

As mentioned above, Siggers earned his Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. His focus was on prehistoric humans in the Middle East. He earned both his B.A. in Archaeology and an M.A. in Archaeological Science from the Institute of Archaeology at the University College London. The Field Museum stated, “He has long emphasized the importance of communicating science to the public in a way that’s accessible and engaging.”

“It’s crucial to talk about science in a way that engages and includes everybody, not just people with a scientific background,” stated Siggers. “Understanding science and anthropology makes us better able to make good decisions for our planet, it makes us more welcoming to people who are different from us, and it’s just fun—nobody should be left out from how amazing science is, and it’s the job of museums to make sure that everyone is welcomed in to learn.”

“The Field Museum is a leader in connecting scientific research to everyday learning. I’m confident that Julian Siggers will continue the museum along this trajectory while redefining how museums today can be accessible, relatable, relevant, and necessary for each visitor–whether they are from the southside of Chicago or the southern hemisphere,” stated Angelique Power, a member of the search committee and President of the Field Foundation.[1] 

“Richard Lariviere’s eight-year tenure as president was marked by revitalizing the Field Museum in the public eye, maintaining the museum’s historic stature while finding innovative ways to reach people. Julian is the perfect person to pick up that torch and run with it,” stated Bill Gantz, Board Chair of The Field Museum and President and C.E.O. of PathoCapital, L.L.C., a healthcare investment company.

During Lariviere’s tenure, he helped balance the museum’s budget; strengthen its endowment; and make sweeping changes to the museum’s exhibitions, including the construction of a new, scientifically updated suite for SUE the T. rex; the acquisition of a touchable cast of Máximo, the largest dinosaur ever discovered; the translation of all new major exhibitions into Spanish; and the ongoing renovations of the Native North American Hall in collaboration with American Indian scholars and community members.  “In my time at the Field, I’m proudest of seeing the museum grow as a progressive scientific leader, using our expertise to speak up on key issues like climate change, conservation, and the importance of diversity and inclusion,” stated Lariviere. “More than ever, we’re showing the world that the Field is more than just a museum, we’re a scientific force, making discoveries that change the world. I know Julian’s going to continue making the museum a place to be proud of.”

“I’m thrilled to join the Field Museum family this fall. It’s an incredible institution that makes a big difference in the world, and I’m looking forward to being part of it,” stated Siggers.

A research institution as well as a museum devoted to anthropology, archeology, and natural sciences (zoology, botany, paleontology, and minerology) The Field Museum of Natural History turned 125 years old in 2018. It is the anchor of the Museum Campus in Burnham Park. 

      Originally, it was housed within the Palace of Fine Arts in Jackson Park, which had been an art museum during the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893) and now houses the Museum of Science and Industry.  F.W. Putnam, chief ethnologist of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition, encouraged The Commercial Club of Chicago to use materials from the World’s Columbian Exposition to form a permanent museum.

      To this end, the railroad magnate Edward E. Ayer (1841-1927) persuaded Marshall Field I (1834-1906) to donate money for what became The Field Museum of Natural History.  Rep. Robert McMurdy of Hyde Park proposed a bill that the General Assembly passed as An Act Concerning Museums in Public Parks on June 17, 1893. The Colombian Museum of Chicago incorporated on September 16, 1893. Marshal Field I announced he would donate $1,000,000 to the institution on October 26, 1893.

      Consequently, the Columbian Museum of Chicago was renamed the Field Columbian Museum on May 21, 1894. The Field Columbian Museum opened on June 2, 1894. 

      From 1894 to 1920, the Columbian Field Museum occupied the Palace of Fine Arts. Upon the exposition board naming him Director of Public Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition, on October 30, 1890, Daniel Hudson Burnham, Sr. (1846-1912) had named his partner John Wellborn Root, Sr. (1850-1891) the supervising architect and the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903) the supervising landscape architect. However, Root died after he paid a visit to Jackson Park on a stormy night. Burnham replaced him with 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.[2]

      Atwood designed the Palace of Fine Arts to act as a temporary fine arts museum during the World’s Fair. Whereas most of the other buildings from the White City had been railroad sheds with plaster facades, the Palace of Fine Arts was a brick structure with a plaster façade so it would be considered fireproof by the standards of the day and owners would not fret that their artworks might burn in a city infamous for having burned down in 1871.  The Field Museum of Natural History moved in 1920 to its new home in Burnham Park, paid for with a bequest from Field, on land the Illinois Central Railroad donated to the South Park District to fulfill a provision of Field’s will that the land for the new museum building be provided free.[3]   

      Ayer served as its first President of the Field Columbian Museum from 1894 to 1898. He remained on the Board of Trustees until 1927. Ayer was also a patron of the Chicago Historical Society, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Newberry Library.[4] 

      Harlow Higinbotham (1838-1919), a business partner of Marshall Field I, was President of the World’s Columbian Exposition Company and headed the World’s Columbian Exposition’s Council of Administration was a Field Museum board member from 1894 to 1919, served as the second President of the Field Columbian Museum from 1898 to 1908.  He purchased the World’s Columbian Exposition’s Tiffany gems and the George Frederick Kunz gemology and mineralogy library for the Field Columbian Museum.

      In 1900, the Executive. Committee of the Board of Trustees voted to abandon “industrial and historical collections.”  During this time, the trustees voted to focus on natural history. Industrial and art exhibits from the World’s Columbian Museum that did not fit that vision were given back to their donors or transferred to other museums. Marshall Field I left the Museum an $8,000,000 bequest.

      This included $4,000,000 to provide an endowment and $4,000,000 for erecting a new building to house the institution, provided land was provided for it within six years. The bequest included the land under the flagship Carson Pirie Scott department store building. The General Assembly passed a law on May 14, 1903 that empowered Chicago’s South Park Commission to levy a tax for the maintenance of the Field Columbian Museum. In 1905, the Field Columbian Museum changed its name to the Field Museum of Natural History.

      Mail-order retail tycoon Aaron Montgomery (“Monty”) Ward (1844-1913) said he would not oppose the new building in Grant Park if the City Council agreed not to build anything else there. They refused, and after Ward counted twenty proposals for museums, libraries, and monuments, he sued.  In 1909, the Illinois Supreme Court again upheld him. In 1911, the Illinois Central Railroad donated land at 12th Street adjacent to Grant Park to the Field Museum project, an act that would eventually allow for the creation of the Museum Campus around the Field Museum. This land was not considered an addition to Grant Park, but the northeast corner of Burnham Park contiguous with Grant Park. 

      Stanley Field, Marshall Field I’s nephew, gave The Field Museum $2,000,000, and served as Second Vice President of The Field Museum of Natural History from 1906 to 1908. He served as third President of The Field Museum of Natural History for fifty-six years.  Stanley Field was also President of the Shedd Aquarium Society, Chairman of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Building and Operating Committee, and furthermore sat on Mayor William Dever’s 1926 A Century of Progresscommittee. The Field family has remained active in the operation of The Field Museum for generations. Marshall Field V has served as Chairman of the Board of both The Art Institute of Chicago and The Field Museum.

      The new Field Museum building was designed by Ernest B. Graham (1866-1936) and Peirce Anderson (1870-1924) of the firm Graham, Anderson Probst & White.[5] Anderson was point on the project. The organization vacated the Palace of Fine Arts in 1920 and The Field Museum of Natural History opened in 1921.

      The eldest of The Field Museum’s dioramas are a group of four white-tailed deer diorama, Four Seasons. It was prepared privately by taxidermist and sculptor Carl Akeley (1864-1926) and his wife, Delia J. Akeley (1875-1970), and, in 1902, The Field Museum purchased the diorama group. 

      In 1908, The Field Museum of Natural History installed in the Central Rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts Carl Akeley’s African Elephant Group (two stuffed African elephants, one charging the other’s midsection). Carl & Delia Akeley killed these elephants before he stuffed and mounted them. 

      Mrs. Charles (Laura) Schweppe, a daughter and co-heiress of John Graves Shedd, the late former partner of Marshall Field I who succeeded him as president of Marshall Field & Company, and who, under the guidance of Stanley Field, founded the John G. Shedd Aquarium, donated an exhibit of more than 100 bronze sculptures by Malvina Hoffman that represented all of the human races, nations, and tribes.  On January 9, 1933, the first bronze group, Unity of Man, went on display in Stanley Field Hall.[6]

      SUE is the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton yet recovered. Her mounted bones went on display at the Field Museum on May 17, 2000.[7]  More than 10,000 people visited The Field Museum that day.  In one of the largest private gifts ever to a Chicago museum, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex yet discovered, SUE, was remounted in a more scientifically accurate way and moved upstairs from Stanley Field Hall to the exhibit The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet.  SUE’s new exhibit opened on Friday, December 21, 2018. 

      Meanwhile, a touchable cast of the biggest dinosaur yet discovered, Patagotitan mayorum, was installed in Stanley Field Hall, as part of The Field Museum’s 125th anniversary celebrations, thanks to a $16,500,000 gift from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Trust.  This titanosaur cast, which strecthes across 122 feet of Stanley Field Hall, has been dubbed Máximo.

      The Field Museum has over 30,000,000 artifacts and specimens. Over 150 scientists, conservators, and collections staff members work there. Due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic closures throughout the state, The Field Museum is temporarily closed until further notice.

      The Field Museum is located on the Museum Campus at the northern end of the Chicago Park District’s Burnham Park, due east of Grant Park in downtown Chicago. The address is 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605.


[1] Despite being founded by members of the same family and having similar names, the Field Foundation is not affiliated with The Field Museum. The Field Foundation describes itself as “a private, independent foundation that supports racial equity through justice, art, media and storytelling, and leadership investment.” Marshall Field III (1893-1956), the grandson of the Field Museum’s founder, Marshall Field I (1834-1906), founded the Field Foundation in 1940.

[2] There are 19th Century sources that state the Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Root and Atwood, but Root’s Second Empire-style design work was not incorporated by Atwood. 

[3] This is to say the land for the Field Museum building was to be provided by the public at no extra cost to his family the same Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) required communities for which he erected libraries provide the lands on which they were built.

[4] “Famed Ayer Art Treasures Go On Block This Week,” Chicago Tribune, September 24, 1932, p. 6

[5] Ernest Graham went from being Atwood’s assistant during the World’s Columbian Exposition to become Burnham’s partner in Burnham & Company, the name Burnham had adopted for the business in 1896, and carried on business under the name Graham Burnham & Co. In 1917, after Burnham’s sons left the firm, Graham changed the name to Graham, Anderson Probst & White, which is the name under which the firm still operates.

[6] “Shows Bronze Group,” The New York Times, 10 January, 1933, p. 25

[7] William Mullen and Alex Bordens, “Learning from Sue,” Chicago Tribune, 16 May, 2010, Section 1, p. 4

See also William Mullen, “T. Rex Proving to be $8.3 Million Bargain for Field Museum,” Chicago Tribune, 16 May, 2010, Section 1, p. 4

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