“Museum of Science & Industry to Celebrate Re-Opening with Free Days”

      The Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) announced Thursday, July 16, A.D. 2020 that it would re-open on Saturday, August 1, A.D. 2020 after closing in March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).   Visitors will be able to buy food and beverages under a tent on the front lawn.  There will be tables to dine on, and families will be welcome to picnic on the green expanse. The doors of the North Portico will be open for entry for the first time in fifteen years.  There will be a total of ten Illinois Resident Free Days between the 1st and 14th of August, which are listed on the table below. Before the M.S.I. opens to the public, it will be open exclusively to Members from the 29th to the 31st of July.

North Exterior of The Museum of Science and Industry Figure 1 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Mr. Spector took this photograph of the North Portico of the Museum of Science and Industry’s Central Pavilion and the north lawn on April 30, 2007.

      Initially, the M.S.I. 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.      On March 27, A.D. 2020, the M.S.I. announced it would be closed through Friday, May 1, A.D. 2020.  Subsequently, the re-opening was made indefinite.        

       “We are excited to invite guests to explore science with us again,” stated Matt Simpson, Vice President of Strategy and Marketing and Chief marketing Officer (C.M.O.).  “As one of the largest science museums in the world, our exhibit galleries are big enough to fit an entire submarine, a dozen cars and trains, and even a 727 airplane.  It’s a great place to discover science in a way you never could at home.”

      “As a science museum, we listened to health experts and scientists to develop a safe and welcoming environment for Chicago-area families to unleash their curiosity,” Mr. Simpson stated.  “We wanted to make it easy to get out of the house and do something fun together.”

      In accordance with guidelines issued by the State of Illinois and City of Chicago, the M.S.I. has implemented procedures to ensure the well-being of visitors as well as staff members and volunteers.  The Museum of Science and Industry will be open Wednesdays through Sundays and closed Mondays and Tuesdays. 


Illinois Resident Free DaysSaturday, August 1, A.D. 2020

Sunday, August 2, A.D. 2020
Illinois Resident Free DaysWednesday, August 5, A.D. 2020

Thursday, August 6, A.D. 2020

Friday, August 7, A.D. 2020

Saturday, August 8, A.D. 2020

Sunday, August 9, A.D. 2020
Illinois Resident Free DaysWednesday, August 12, A.D. 2020

Thursday, August 13, A.D. 2020

Friday, August 14, A.D. 2020

      No further Chicago residency discounts apply on Illinois Resident Free Days.[1]  People with certain occupations,[2] homeschooling families and groups,[3] Chicago Public Library cardholders,[4] E.B.T. and W.I.C. cardholders,[5] members of A.S.T.C. institutions over ninety miles away from the M.S.I.[6] can take advantage of programs to always receive free Museum Entry (general admission) tickets.  Movies in the Giant Dome Theater are not covered by Museum Entry.  Nor are the Fab Lab, admission to special exhibits, and parking in the underground garage.  It costs $22 to park in the underground garage.

      The M.S.I. is limiting the number of daily visitors to 2,000 per day, which is below the 25% capacity limit.  Timed-admission tickets and social distancing measures will further reduce crowding.  If a party arrives before the admission time, they may be asked to wait; and if a party is late, the M.S.I. cannot guarantee they will be admitted that day due to the new limits placed on the building’s limited capacity.  If one is running late, call (773) 684-1414 or e-mail tickethelp@msichicago.org to re-schedule a visit.

       Masks or other face coverings are required for all staff members and visitors ages two and older.  Babies and toddlers under two need not wear masks.  The same is true of adults and children with health conditions or disabilities that preclude wearing masks.  High-touch areas are being disinfected hourly.  During business hours, the M.S.I. is disinfecting high-touch areas with products approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) every thirty-to-sixty minutes.  All surfaces are disinfected overnight.  Hand sanitizer is readily available throughout the (public areas) of the museum building.  Elevators are limited to one party at a time, be that party a family or a group of friends or colleagues.  Some elevators are designated as “up” elevators or “down” elevators only.       

      In addition to being able to purchase food and beverages in the tent on the front lawn, visitors will be able to purchase takeout food and beverages at the Museum Café in the Lower Court.  The Brain Food Court on the Lower Level and Finnegan’s Ice Cream Parlor on Yesterday’s Main Street on the Main Level are closed.  Vending machines such as in the Henry Crown Space Center are not available.  Detailed information is available at www.msichicago.org/welcome.

      Visitors must reserve a timed-entry tickets in advance of their visit via the Website, www.msichicago.org. Click here to begin the process of purchasing a ticket or reserving a ticket on a free day.  Tickets will be delivered via e-mail for no-contact entry scanning of smartphones.

      Some exhibits and experiences are closed or modified to reduce contact.  Tours inside the Coal Mine and on-board the U-505 Submarine are suspended.  However, the U-505 exhibit hall remains open so one may walk around the submarine, if not through her.  The Idea Factory and Future Energy Chicago exhibits are also closed.

      The film Superpower Dogs (2019), narrated by Chris Evans (best known as Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), and Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest will debut at the Giant Dome Theater (formerly the Omnimax Theater) in the M.S.I.’s Henry Crown Space Center on August 1st. Before the pandemic-induced lockdown, the Giant Dome Theater was supposed to re-open on Saturday, March 21, A.D. 2020 after undergoing renovations for three months.  Four new films were supposed to debut: Superpower Dogs, Volcanoes, Ancient Caves, and Canada’s Great Bear Forest.  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.  In a press release about the re-opening, the M.S.I. described the Giant Dome Theater as “a five-story, domed wraparound screen with a safe, capacity-controlled environment.”

Credit: Superpower Dogs Caption:Cosmic Power’s Superpower Dogs is an IMAX Original Film presented by MARS Petcare will make its debut at the Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday, August 1, A.D. 2020.  The movie follows Halo, a puppy being trained to join a disaster response team; Henry, an avalanche rescue dog in British Columbia; Reef, a Newfoundland lifeguard dog with the Italian Coast Guard; Ricochet, a surfing service dog that helps people with special needs; and Tipper and Tony, bloodhound brothers that help protect endangered animals in Africa.

Credit: MacGillivray Freeman Caption: Canada’s Great Bear Forest will debut at the Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday, August 1, A.D. 2020.  Filmmakers Ian McAllister and Jeff Turner spent three years in the Great Bear Rainforest making the documentary.  It is a Spirit Bear Entertainment film presented by Seaspan in association with Destination BC (as in British Columbia) and distributed by MacGillivray Freeman Films.

Figure 2 Credit: Cosmic Picture, Ltd. Caption: This is a movie poster for Superpower Dogs (2019), which is making its debut at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Giant Dome Theater on Saturday, August 1, A.D. 2020.

Figure 3 Credit: © 2018 Reed Smoot, A.S.C. for Cosmic Picture, Ltd.  This is a publicity picture that Reed Smoot took of Chris Evans for Superpower Dogs (2019), which Mr. Evans narrated.

      The M.S.I. has also postponed the opening of the traveling exhibit Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes to March 4, A.D. 2021.  The exhibit will run through September 6, A.D. 2021.  It was supposed to open at the M.S.I. on Thursday, October 8, 2020 and remain on display through April of 2021.  Visitors who pre-purchased tickets for the originally-scheduled run will be contacted to re-schedule.  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 2 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 M.S.I. will continue to engage people where they live with free experiments and activities via its Science and Home initiative.  Families can access hands-on science experiments, videos, and videogames.  One can subscribe to receive Science at Home e-mails.  Two weeks ago, the M.S.I. also launched the 2020 iteration of its Summer Brain Games, which encourages families to discover S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and medicine)[7] education in the city with free activities.  One can learn more via www.msichicago.org/summerbrain

      Philanthropist 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.  Mr. Rosenwald wanted Chicago to have a large science and industrial museum modeled on the Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik (German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology) in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.[8]  [The Commercial Club had earlier sponsored Burnham’s Plan of Chicago (1909).[9] It had also sponsored the Chicago Zoological Society, which founded the Brookfield Zoo in west suburban Brookfield, Illinois.] Rosenwald’s fellow trustees named the museum the Rosenwald Industrial Museum in his honor, but he was a modest man and asked them to remove his name.  In 1929, the trustees changed the name to the Museum of Science and Industry.

      The Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts (P.F.A.)Also known as the Fine Arts Building, it is the last palace from the White City fairgrounds of Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), to remain standing in Jackson Park.[10]       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) 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. 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.[11] The neoclassical design Atwood developed for the Palace of Fine Arts combined Roman domes with Ionic Greek columns, statues, and frieze panels. 

      The façade is modeled on temples standing on the Acropolis of Athens.  Atwood 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 had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Besnard.  Ernest R. Graham (1868-1936), coordinated much of Atwood’s work on-site, including aspects of the Palace of Fine Arts.  The Palace of Fine Arts (P.F.A.) held art treasures from around the world and to protect them at a time when many people could recall the Great Fire of 1871, unlike the other palaces of the White City, the P.F.A. had a brick substructure under its staff superstructure.[12]

     Initially, the South Park Commission (S.P.C.) 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), an instructor at The Art Institute of Chicago, rallied groups in support of restoring the building. [The South Park District was one of twenty-two park districts in Chicago that merged in 1934 to form the Chicago Park District.]  In 1921, J.H. Wade conducted a technical survey of the building with the support of a committee of the Illinois branch of the American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.), which worked with the S.P.C. At the time, the interested parties estimated the cost of restoring the P.F.A. and providing heating and electrical lighting to be $1,600,000. The building itself was valued at $3,000,000 and it was doubtful it could be replicated in 1922 for less than $10,000,000. On Friday, June 9, 1922, when the A.I.A. held its convention in Chicago for the first time in fourteen years, they held a dinner banquet under the dome of Central Pavilion of the P.F.A. to draw attention to the sorry state of the building.

      Mrs. Albion Headburg (1878-1961) chaired the Art Committee of the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs, which raised $7,000 to restore a small part of the Palace of Fine Arts to show what it could look like. They changed the mind of the S.P.C., which asked voters to approve the sale of $5,000,000 in bonds to finance restoration of the P.F.A. to serve as a science museum, trade school, sculptural art museum, and convention center.  In 1925, Dr. Charles R. Richards, author of The Industrial Museum and Director of the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums), attested to the suitability of the P.F.A. as the future home of a science museum.  

      The design of the restoration and reconstruction of Atwood’s staff superstructure and brick substructure fell to the architectural firm employed by the S.P.C.: Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White – principally to Alfred Phillips Shaw (1895-1970).[13] 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.  [Shaw had broken off from Graham, Anderson, Probst and White.]  He also replaced Graham on the M.S.I.’s Board of Supervisors.  The façade and substructure underwent restoration and reconstruction between 1929 and 1931. The entry floor was raised to accommodate a ground floor.  When it became apparent $5,000,000 would be insufficient to restore the building, Mr. Rosenwald pledged to pay for completion of the project, in addition to his endowment pledge of $3,000,000.  It is important to remember this is the case, because once Rosenwald and his heirs agreed to finance completion of the construction work, there was no question that the science museum would have to share space with any other organizations within the P.F.A. (except on the museum’s terms). 

     The Museum of Science and Industry opened in three stages between 1933 and 1940.  The very first opening ceremony came on June 19, 1933, when the North & South Courts of the Central Pavilion were opened for the press, members of the Rosenwald family, Commercial Club members, the S.P.C., and Edward J. Kelly (1876-1950), Mayor of Chicago (1933-1947) and President of the South Park Board of Commissioners (1924-1933).  It opened to the public 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. 

      Between 1938 and 1940, the Central Pavilion was closed to the public while the interior was installed. The West Pavilion opened on March 1, 1938.  During this period, the Museum Library and some exhibits were accessible in the West Pavilion.[14] There was a preview of the whole Museum of Science and Industry on April 14, 1939.  George Wharton Pepper (1867-1961), an influential lawyer from Philadelphia and former U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania, delivered the speech “The Happy Pair” when The Commercial Club of Chicago hosted a preview of the Museum Opening attended by industrialists, financiers, politicians, and representatives from museums in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City. On October 26, 1940, the Museum of Science and Industry finally fully opened to the public, after a press preview on October 24, 1940. 

      In 2018, the Museum of Science and Industry had 1,560,000 visitors, and was second-most visited museum after The Art Institute of Chicago, which had 1,620,000 visitors.  On Thursday, October 3, 2019 that the M.S.I. 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. 

      This is a big year at the Museum of Science and Industry.  In January, 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.      

      Normally, Chicago’s museums generate revenue from the sale of admission tickets, special exhibit admission fees, movie tickets, parking fees, food, beverages, and books and other merchandise in gift shops, as well as from renting out space for private events, but with the statewide lockdown, they were derived of that revenue for about four months.  Consequently, they have laid-off more staff members in the last two months than during the economic depression that started in November of 2007.  Back then, the museums had to make do with less revenue as fewer people visited, but now they are suffering the consequences of having no revenue for several months because literally nobody visited.  The only revenue they would have generated in that period would have been from people making online donations or marking online purchases from museum giftshops.  In late May, the M.S.I. laid-off eighty-four full-time employees.[15]  For context, the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum laid-off 120 full-time and part-time employees in mid-May,[16] and, as Stefano Esposito recently noted in the Chicago Sun-Times, “Last month, the Field’s outgoing president, Richard W. Lariviere, announced in a letter to staff and supporters the elimination of 71 positions and the furloughing of a further 56 employees.”[17]  The Field Museum of Natural History re-opened to Members on Friday, July 17, A.D. 2020 and will re-open to the public on Friday, July 24, A.D. 2020.  The Adler Planetarium has not yet announced when it will re-open.

      Located in the northeast corner of the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry stands on 57th Street at the intersection with Lake Shore Drive. The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.  Normally, the M.S.I. is open every day of the year with two exceptions: Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.  For the time being, the M.S.I. will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Normally, on most days, it would be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but during peak periods (including summertime and Christmastime) it would be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  The Website is https://www.msichicago.org/ and the phone number is (773) 684-1414.


[1] Normally, Chicago residents receive $5 off for adults and $3 off for children (ages 3-11). There is a limit to six children (under eighteen) admitted per one adult. 

[2] Active-duty U.S. Armed Forces personnel and veterans, Illinois former P.O.W.s, Chicago firefighters, Chicago police officers, and Illinois teachers (Preschool through 12th Grade) always receive free Museum Entry for themselves by showing valid military status or occupational identification when purchasing tickets online.

[3] Illinois home school groups and families can receive free Museum Entry. 

[4] Chicago Public Library (C.P.L.) cardholders may also use C.P.L. Museum Passports.  These provide free Museum Entry for up to four people with a minimum of one child (under eighteen) and a maximum of two adults.

[5] Through the Museums for All program, the M.S.I. offers free Museum Entry to individuals and families – regardless of what state they live in – presenting an Electronic Benefits Transfer (E.B.T.) card or a Women, Infants and Children (W.I.C.) card, along with a photo identification card.  Each cardholder is entitled to free Museum Entry tickets for up to two adults and up to six children (under eighteen).  Advance reservations are not available for Museums for All. 

[6] If one is a member of an Association of Science and Technology Centers (A.S.T.C.) institution located more than ninety miles from the M.S.I., one is eligible for free Museum Entry for up to two adults and four children under eighteen who reside in the same household (also at least ninety miles from M.S.I.).  One adult must be a member cardholder.  One must present one’s science center’s membership card with an A.S.T.C/ logo along with a photo identification card to redeem this benefit at M.S.I. ticket counters.  Advance reservations are also not available for reciprocal admission.

[7] Note, to the best of my knowledge every other organization uses S.T.E.M. to mean science, technology, engineering, and math, but the Museum of Science and Industry uses S.TE.M. to mean science, technology, engineering, and medicine.

[8] Please note that at the time Waldemar Kaempffert (1877-1956), the first Director of the Museum, began to bring Julius Rosenwald’s vision into reality, he translated the Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik as “German Museum of Masterworks of Science and Technology” but today the institution calls itself the “German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology” in English-language version of its Website.

[9] In 1906-09, Burnham and assistant Edward H. Bennet drafted The Plan of Chicago with the financial support of Chicago’s Merchants Club, which merged with The Commercial Club of Chicago in 1907.  The report, published in 1909, circulated amongst Commercial Club members and public institutions, and adopted by the Chicago Common Council at the urging of Mayor Fred Busse (1866-1914).

[10] Some of the other palaces from the White City were disassembled in Chicago and reassembled elsewhere.  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 (1914-1918) and burned down.  The Japanese Tea House burned down during the Second Great World War (1939-1945).  The Iowa Building became an eyesore and was demolished at the Museum of Science and Industry’s expense.  The Art Institute of Chicago and La Rabida Children’s Hospital also date back to the World’s Columbian Exposition, but neither of those buildings were part of the White City.

[11] 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. 

[12] The other palaces were made of wood or steel framing clad in a kind of plaster known as “staff.” Staff is a combination of plaster of paris, hemp fibers, and Portland cement.

[13] Other buildings designed by A.P. Shaw include the Merchandise Mart, the Civic Opera House, the Morton wing of The Art Institute of Chicago, the original McCormick Place, and the Continental Plaza Hotel.

[14] For most of the M.S.I.’s history, though, the Museum Library was on the balcony of the Central Pavilion’s South Court.  The Museum Library, then known as the Kresge Library, closed in 1996.  The Archives absorbed collections not donated to The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois.  For five years, Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, worked as library services coordinator at the Museum of Science and Industry, from 1982 to 1987.

[15] Stefano Esposito, “Museum of Science and Industry cuts 84 jobs,” Chicago Sun-Times, 27 May, 2020 (https://chicago.suntimes.com/entertainment-and-culture/2020/5/27/21271759/chicago-museum-of-science-and-industry-layoffs) Accessed 07/22/20

[16] Stefano Esposito, “Adler Planetarium lays off 120 employees,” Chicago Sun-Times, 14 May, 2020 (https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/5/14/21258846/adler-planetarium-lays-off-120-employees) Accessed 07/22/20

[17] Stefano Esposito, “Field Museum reopens July 17,” Chicago Sun-Times, 9 July, 2020 (https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/7/9/21318871/coronavirus-pandemic-shutdown-field-museum-re-opening-july-17) Accessed 07/22/20

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