“Chicago Museum Closures”

      The history of how local officials reacted to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic’s spread in Illinois can be traced in part by reviewing announcements about museum closures.  The larger museums – including the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago; The Field Museum; The Art Institute of Chicago; and the Chicago History Museum – are able to offer the public digital access to collections of artifacts, specimens, artworks, and archival materials. Some of them are offering individuals and families ideas for at-home activities. One of them is encouraging people to contribute materials that can later be used to document the history of how locals experienced the COVID-19 crisis. Another is encouraging aspiring authors to finish their books. A few of the museums, including the Adler Planetarium, are asking the public for donations.

Figure 1 Credit: Adobe Stock Photo Caption: This is a view of the southern elevation of the Museum of Science and Industry, seen from across Columbia Basin.  We see the Central Pavilion, the East Pavilion, and the Henry Crown Space Center, with a tent in front of the Central Pavilion.

Museum of Science & Industry

      Initially, the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) in the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago announced on Friday, March 13, A.D. 2020 that due to the spread of the novel corona virus (COVID-19) in America, it would be closed from Saturday, March 14, A.D. 2020 through Monday, April 6, A.D. 2020. All scheduled events for that time fame have been cancelled. [The Snoozeum night event (scheduled for March 20th), the Member Film Fest (scheduled for March 21st), the Member Camp-In (scheduled for April 3rd), and the Robot Block Party events in early April have been cancelled. Tuesday Tales have been paused. As for people who registered for educational programs and events for donors, the affected people should wait to be contacted.] If you pre-purchased tickets for that time frame, you will be refunded automatically. 

      “As an institution rooted in science, we are proactively taking this step based upon the facts,” stated David Mosena, President and Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the M.S.I. “While we have no known cases connected to the MSI, we are closing to minimize the spread of this virus and to help ensure the safety and health of our students, guests employees and their families.  While we known that this decision will pose challenges to our community, the available date indicate that taking early and decisive steps to reduce group interactions is critical to controlling the spread of the virus.”

      On March 27, A.D. 2020, the M.S.I. announced it would be closed through Friday, May 1, A.D. 2020.  The M.S.I. stated, “The Museum has developed an operational plan which will allow MSI to reopen safely and responsibly while creating provisions to support hourly and salaried staff during the closure, including continuation of health benefits.  Along with the temporary closure, all public programs and events through April 30 are postponed or cancelled.  Private events are also cancelled.  Guests who have purchased tickets to the Museum through April 30 will be refunded.”

      Subsequently, the re-opening was made indefinite.  The public can check https://www.msichicago.org/visit/covid-19/ for updates on when the M.S.I. will re-open. 

      Museum Memberships are being extended.  Tuesday Tales are now virtual.  The U-505 In-Depth Experience private tour of the U-505 scheduled for Saturday, May 16, A.D. 2020 has been cancelled.  Teen programs for both the spring and summer of 2020 have been cancelled. 

      With the M.S.I.’s Science and Home initiative, families can access hands-on science experiments, videos, and videogames.  One can subscribe to receive Science at Home e-mails. 

Click here to see the Next Generation Science Standards (N.G.S.S.) Trimester Guide developed by teachers at Lincoln Middle School in northwest suburban Schiller Park, Illinois as part of M.S.I.’s N.G.S.S. program.  This guide is for students in Grades 6-8.

Staff members are also producing content for the M.S.I.’s social media.

      On or about Thursday, April 9, A.D. 2020, the M.S.I. announced it would support local hospitals and healthcare organizations in need of personal protective equipment (P.P.E.) with the activation of twenty of its 3D printers to produce masks and face shields.  The M.S.I. stated, “The 3D printers, usually featured in MSI’s Wanger Family Fab Lab as a way for guests to learn more about 3D-rpinting and digital fabrication technology, are being prepped to work in the homes of Museum staff members.  Once they are fully operational, MSI estimates being able to produce parts for up to 50 face shields and 30 masks per day.  MSI is working with local makerspaces, universities and community organizations to produce face shields and stopgap face masks using designs approved by the National Institutes of Health.”

Figure 2 Credit: Museum of Science and Industry Caption: In April, the Museum of Science and Industry used twenty of its thirty 3D printers that are normally in the Wanger Family Fab Lab  to produce face masks and face shields for local hospitals and other healthcare organizations that were in need of personal protective equipment (P.P.E.).

      “We’re proud to be a part of a maker community that is responding to meet this need for those fighting COVID-19 on the front lines,” stated Manny Juarez, Director of Science and Integrated Strategies.  “This technology allows us to work nimbly, and we’re able to adjust what is being printed to ensure it is the most useful, and safe for essential workers.”

      The M.S.I. stated, “The network of Chicago makers is working directly with Chicago-area healthcare providers to ensure the PPE being produced is safe and useful.  This rapid response manufacturing approach fills the gap before traditional manufacturers are able to ramp up production on a large scale.”

        This is a big year at the Museum of Science and Industry.  In January, the aforementioned David Mosena announced he would retire as President and C.E.O. of the M.S.I. in October. Mr. Mosena is the second-longest serving president in the M.S.I.’s history after Major Lenox Lohr (1891-1968), who resigned the presidency of N.B.C. to accept the presidency of the M.S.I. in 1940 and held the post until his death in 1968.

      In March of 2020, the M.S.I. celebrated the tenth anniversary of the popular physics exhibit Science Storms.  The 26,000-square foot exhibit, which opened in March of 2010, is sponsored by Allstate.  The American Alliance of Museums, formerly the American Association of Museums, awarded Science Storms its highest honor in 2011.

Credit: Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is time-lapsed video of the construction of Science Storms.

      “We believe it’s vital to champion visionary work, like Science Storms, especially in Allstate’s hometown of Chicago,” stated Kate Nack, Director of The Allstate Foundation and Social Innovation.  “We’ve been honored to be a part of this innovative exhibit for the past decade.”

      On Saturday, March 21, A.D. 2020, the Giant Dome Theater in the Henry Crown Space Center was supposed to re-open after undergoing renovations for three months.  Four new films were supposed to debut: Superpower Dogs, Volcanoes, Ancient Caves, and Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest.  On Earth Day (Wednesday, April 22, A.D. 2020), the M.S.I. livestreamed the documentary The Human Element, which was made by James Balog, whose photographs can be seen in the exhibit Extreme Ice.  After the film played, there followed a conversation between Mr. Balog and Dr. Patricia Ward, M.S.I. Director of Science Exhibitions and Partnerships.

      The traveling exhibitMarvel: Universe of Super Heroes will open at the M.S.I. on Thursday, October 8, 2020 and remain on display through April of 2021.  Celebrating over eighty years of Marvel comics, the exhibit consists of 300 artifacts, including Marvel Cinematic Universe movie costumes, props, and original artworks.  This exhibit was organized by SC Exhibitions; the Museum of Popular Culture (“MoPop”) in Seattle, Washington; and Marvel Themed Entertainment.  Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes is not covered by Museum Entry (general admission) tickets.  Exhibit entry requires a separate, timed-entry ticket. 

Figure 4 Credit: Museum of Popular Culture (“MoPop”) Caption: Guests view costumes from Marvel Studios films, including these three Iron Man powered exoskeletal suits of armor.

The Field Museum of Natural History

      The Field Museum of Natural History, located on the Museum Campus in the Chicago Park District’s Burnham Park, announced on Friday, March 13, A.D. 2020, that it would be closed starting Saturday, March 14, A.D. 2020 through Sunday, March 29, A.D. 2020. All scheduled programs were postponed.  Subsequently, The Field Museum announced it was closed until further notice.  All events that The Field Museum would have hosted have been cancelled or postponed.  If one registered for an event, including member and donor events, one can expect to receive an e-mail with information about refunds or rescheduling.  People with questions about upcoming events, including member and donor events, e-mail guestrelations@fieldmuseum.org or call (312) 922-9410.  The Field Museum stated, “The health and well-being of our museum community, including our visitors, comes first, and we look forward to the day when we can safely welcome you back to the Field.”

      On its Website, The Field Museum commented, “As a scientific institution, we are committed to following the recommendations of public health authorities.  While we rely on revenue from our public museum to sustain our mission, we can only be leaders in discovery and education if we keep our community healthy.  It is of utmost importance that we provide a safe environment for the guests who visit our museum, the people who work in our halls, the donors who keep us running, and other members of our community who we come in contact with every day.” 

      The public can follow The Field Museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to learn about its collections, research, and conservation efforts.  The Field Museum also has online resources and at-home activities for people of all ages, including children.

Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum

       The Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, also located on the Museum Campus, announced on March 13, A.D. 2020, it would close indefinitely starting on Saturday, March 14, A.D. 2020. The following events at the Adler Planetarium were canceled: “Smithsonian Museum Day” (scheduled for April 4th), “Sun Salutations Yoga” (scheduled for April 4th), “Adler After Dark: Rocket Women” (scheduled for April 16th), and “Earthfest” (scheduled for April 25th). Initially, the Adler Planetarium announced that the events Apollo 13 Revisited scheduled for April 15th and “Women in Space Science Award Celebration” scheduled for April 23rd would be rescheduled, but as of now only Apollo 13 Revisited is being listed as an event that will be rescheduled.  The “Reel Space Film Series” that was to be held at the Music Box Theatre from the 24th of March to the 14th of April was cancelled.  Eventually, the Adler Planetarium announced that all events through Friday, May 1, A.D. 2020 were cancelled or would be rescheduled. 

      Click here to donate $10, $25, $50, $100 or another sum of one’s own choosing to the Adler Planetarium.  Currently, if one donates $25 or more, an Adler Planetarium employee will record a thank-you video.

Figure 5 Credit: Adobe Stock Photo Caption: This is the main entrance of the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum.

Chicago History Museum

      The Chicago Historical Society (C.H.S.) closed the Chicago History Museum (C.H.M.), in the Chicago Park District’s Lincoln Park in the neighborhood of Lincoln Park on the North Side of Chicago,on Saturday, March 21, A.D. 2020, and it will remain closed through Sunday, May 31, A.D. 2020.  Most staff members are working off-site.  The plan, as of now, is to “review the decision to close on a week-by-week basis and reopen when we feel it is appropriate to do so,” Gary T. Johnson, Edgar D. and Deborah R. Joannotta President of the Chicago History Museum, explained in the CHM Statement on COVID-19 on the C.H.S. Website.

      In the meantime, the public can explore C.H.M. offerings via Google Arts & Culture, take a close look at select artifacts from the collection, peruse images from the C.H.M.’s research collection, see Chicago history illustrated through augmented reality and virtual reality, listen to interviews with historian and broadcaster Studs Terkel (1912-2008), engage with classroom resources, read The Encyclopedia of Chicago, and search the holdings of the Chicago Collections Consortium.  [Click here to purchase a print copy of The Encyclopedia of Chicago via Amazin.com, click here to purchase it from Barnes & Noble, and click here to purchase it directly from The University of Chicago Press.] If one has an account, one can also conduct research via ProQuest.

      The C.H.M. is accepting submissions for In This Together.  This is “a community-based initiative to collect digital records that document personal experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the C.H.M. stated.  “We are all affected by this crisis in varying degrees, and diaries, journals, oral histories, images, recordings, and similar materials will help us tell stories of this unprecedented time in history.  Personal accounts provide depth and context for what an event or era was like for the everyday people experiencing it.  Gathering this type of information about the COVID-19 pandemic in the Chicago area will be important for people [in the future] to understand this period of our history.” 

      Click here to submit digital images, audio files, or video files.  To contribute a physical item, click here to access the Collection Donation form, fill it out, and submit it.  Selected submissions will be displayed online here.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

      The Chicago Academy of Sciences (C.A.S.) has closed the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum until further notice.  On its Website, the C.A.S. stated, “We hold the utmost respect for science-based decision making in public policy and we believe this is simply the most responsible course we can take.”

      The staff is telecommuting.  All field trips are postponed and being rescheduled.  Ticketed special events will be rescheduled.  Green City Market events are postponed.  This year’s Butterfly Ball fundraiser, which would have been held on Friday, May 1, 2020 (May Day) has been cancelled. 

      Summer Camp continues to be scheduled to begin on Monday, June 29, A.D. 2020.  Registration remains open.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago (A.I.C.), located in Grant Park, is, of course, temporarily closed, as well.  All tours, lectures, and performances are “on hiatus.”  In the meantime, one can pay the A.I.C. a virtual visit.  This includes the ability to explore the collection digitally, digital resources devoted to the exhibit El Greco Ambition and Defiance, read the Blog, peruse the A.I.C.’s Digital Publications, and access Educator Resources for teachers and homeschooling parents.  The Museum Shop online is operational, but its fulfillment center is experiencing delays. Many of the books published by or about The Art Institute of Chicago are also available for purchase from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Chicago, USA – July 15, 2014: The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois. It’s the second largest art museum in the United States.
Figure 6 Credit Adobe Stock Photo Caption: This is the main entrance of The Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue.

Museum of Contemporary Arts Chicago

The Museum of Contemporary Arts Chicago (M.C.A. Chicago), located between Senecaa Park to the west and Lake Shore Park to the east. in the neighborhood of Streeterville,[1] on the North Side of Chicago, is, of course, also temporarily closed.  In an open letter on its Website, Madeleine Grynsztejn, the Pritzker Director of the M.C.A. Chicago, wrote, “The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago takes the health and safety of the public and our staff as our highest priority.  In compliance with the State of Illinois’ Disaster Proclamation order, the MCA is temporarily closed in support of the City of Chicago’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).”  She encouraged the public to visit the Commons Online, which she described as “a digital extension of our second floor community space.”

The American Writers Museum

The American Writers Museum, located on Michigan Avenue, is closed. All programs and events scheduled for the period in which it is closed are cancelled, and all ticketholders for those events will be refunded.  The public can continue to engage with the American Writers Museum by subscribing to the A.W.M. YouTube Channel, taking a virtual tour of the exhibits with A.W.M. President Carey Cranston, visiting the virtual exhibit My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today, watching A.W.M. Author Talk webinars, watching Little Squirrels Storytime videos with your kids, and checking out A.W.M. Reading Recommendations.  The A.W.M. also encourages aspiring writers to take this time to finish books they started, and provides writing motivation and inspiration.  Click here to make a donation.

DuSable Museum

The DuSable Museum of African American History, which is located in the Chicago Park District’s Washington Park on the South Side of Chicago, is closed through Friday, May 15, A.D. 2020.  While some staff members continue to work on-site to safeguard the building and exhibits, most are working remotely. 

Figure 7 Credit: The DuSable Museum of African American History Caption: This is a missive from Perri Irmer, President & C.E.O. of The DuSable Museum of African American History, posted on the museum’s Website.

West Side Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Greek Museums

      On the West Side of Chicago,there are three smaller museums dedicated to Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Greek history, arts, and culture are closed.  The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture in the Chicago Park District’s Humboldt Park[2] is closed until further notice.  The National Museum of Mexican Art in the Chicago Park District’s Harrison Park in Pilsen[3]is closed until further notice.  In March, Jorge Valdivia, the National Museum of Mexican Art’s performing arts consultant, lost his brother, Mauricio Valdivia (1967-2020) to COVID-19. The National Hellenic Museum, located on South Halsted Street in Greektown,[4] is closed.  All programs are cancelled, including in-person Greek language programs.  On Thursday, March 12, 2020, the National Hellenic Museum made the painful decision to cancel Greek Independence Day celebrations on Saturday, March 28, A.D. 2020. At that time, they chose to close from Friday, March 13, A.D. 2020 through Wednesday, March 18, A.D. 2020.  Subsequently, on Tuesday, March 16, A.D. 2020, the National Hellenic Museum announced it would remain closed.

Chicago Architecture Center

      Initially, the Chicago Architecture Center (C.A.C.) announced on Friday, March 13, A.D. 2020, it would close through Tuesday, March 31, A.D. 2020. Most programs that had been scheduled between the 14th and 31st of March were cancelled.  At that time, they hoped to re-open by Wednesday, April 1, A.D. 2020. Field trips for students and educational programs for children and families were suspended through April 9th.

      On Monday, March 23, A.D. 2020, the C.A.C. announced in a press release that all C.A.C. exhibit galleries, the ArcelorMittal Design Studio, the Gand Lecture Hall, and C.A.C. Design Store would remain closed, and re-open on May 1st, “at the earliest, unless otherwise announced.”  Further, Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruises aboard the Chicago’s First Lady scheduled for April would not take place.  Walking tours were suspended through Friday, May 1, A.D. 2020.  Bus tours were suspended through Thursday, May 14, A.D. 2020.  public programs were suspended through Tuesday, May 19, A.D. 2020.

      All ticketed, reserved, and drop-in C.A.C. programs for children, students, and families, both on-site and off-site were suspended until further notice.  This includes Family Days in March, April, and May; Teen Saturday Studios and LEGO® Build events in March and April; and the Newhouse Competition Workshop: Fine Arts and Graphic Design on Saturday, March 21, A.D. 2020.  The Girls Build! Affordable Dream Homes camp that was supposed to take place from the 6th to the 9th of April was not held and will not be rescheduled.  The Gala 2020: Open Doors, Open Minds, which was supposed to take place on Thursday, April 23, A.D. 2020, will be rescheduled for a date to be determined later. 

      On Thursday, March 26, A.D. 2020, the C.A.C. launched CAC@Home, an online magazine.  It offers new and archival videos, reading material, quizzes, and interactive content.

Chicago Literary Alliance

      The Chicago Literary Alliance postponed the One for the Books fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, March 28, A.D. 2020 until Saturday, June 13, A.D. 2020 due to the spread of the novel corona virus (COVID-19). The Chicago Literacy Alliance (C.L.A.) closed the 50,000-square-foot Literacenter to the public on Sunday, March 15, A.D. 2020. The staff has been telecommuting.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

      On a related note, Melissa Coultas, Acting Executive Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (A.L.P.L.M.), down in Springfield announced that since the A.L.P.L.M. cannot celebrate its fifteenth anniversary in a few weeks with a party, the staff historians, librarians, and educators are preparing appropriate materials to share in newsletters and via social media.  Meanwhile, other employees are cleaning and improving the facilities and preparing special events for the rest of the year.  Shortly after the A.L.P.L.M. re-opens, it will receive its 5,000,000th visitor, and the A.L.P.L.M. will have a “special welcome” for that visitor.    


[1] Streeterville is the neighborhood between the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue and the lakeshore.

[2] The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture is housed in the former Humboldt Park Stables & Receptory in Chicago Park District’s Humboldt Parkin Humboldt Park (Community Area #23) on the West Side of Chicago.

[3] The National Museum of Mexican Art (formerly the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum) is located in the Chicago Park District’s Harrison Park in the Pilsenneighborhood is within Lower West Side (Community Area #31) on the West Side of Chicago.

[4] The National Hellenic Museum (formerly the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center) is located in Greektown, a neighborhood in the Near West Side (Community Area #28) on the West Side of Chicago.

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