Starting This Week, the Museum of Science & Industry is Open Again on Tuesdays
Take Flight Exhibit Re-Opens After 727 Restored to 1960s Appearance
Starting today, Tuesday, May 25, A.D. 2021, the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) in Chicago is open again on Tuesdays, and will thus be open from Tuesdays through Sundays, but will remain closed on Mondays. Between its second COVID-19 lockdown re-opening in March and now, the M.S.I. has been closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The exhibit Take Flight on the Balcony Level of the Transportation Gallery, which is the East Court of the M.S.I.’s Central Pavilion also re-opened last week after it underwent renovations. The centerpiece of Take Flight is a real Boeing 727 which has been restored to its appearance from the 1960s. The U-505 and Coal Mine remain closed but visitors can walk around the U-505 within her exhibit hall.
The M.S.I. re-opened to the public on Sunday, March 7, A.D. 2021. The Pioneer Zephyr exhibit also re-opened after an extensive remodeling and the traveling exhibit Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes opened to the public on that same date, as I wrote about in March. There was a press preview on the morning of Thursday, March 4, A.D. 2021. The M.S.I. and Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes were open exclusively for Museum Members from the 4th to the 6th of March.
Due to the M.S.I.’s second COVID-19 closure, the annual Black Creativity festival and the Juried Art Exhibition were postponed and prolonged from late winter to spring and summer for 2021. Black Creativity will also be longer than normal, as it will extend over three months. As of now, it is scheduled to open on Wednesday, April 7, A.D. 2021 and run through Sunday, July 4, A.D. 2021.
Fans of Michael Jordan should be sure to stop by a small exhibit of things he lent to the M.S.I. that are on display in the Lower Court. This small exhibit promotes Michael Jordan to the Max, which is playing in the Giant Dome Theater in the Henry Crown Space Center. The film has been remastered for the re-release of the film to celebrate its twentieth anniversary. This documentary showcases Jordan in his prime leading the Chicago Bulls to the 1998 N.B.A. Finals.
Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes will run through Sunday, October 24, A.D. 2021. Originally, it was supposed to open on Thursday, October 8, A.D. 2020 and remain on display through April of 2021, but that was before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Celebrating over eighty years of Marvel comics, the exhibit consists of 300 artifacts, including Marvel Cinematic Universe (M.C.U.) movie costumes, props; and original art.
Entry requires a separate, timed-entry ticket. Tickets must be purchased in advance online at https://www.msichicago.org/visit/tickets/. They will be delivered by e-mail. Guests will then display the tickets on their smartphones for no-contact entry scanning.
The exhibit, which closed in 2019, is no longer called All Aboard the Silver Streak, but rather is simply called The Pioneer Zephyr. The Pioneer Zephyr, also known as the Burlington Zephyr, is a streamlined, diesel-electric articulated stainless-steel train. It was the first American diesel-electric passenger train; the first in a fleet of nine shovelnose diesel-electric trains built by the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company (CB&Q) between 1934 and ‘39; and it is a speed-record holder. Named after the Greek god of the west wind, the Zephyr set a speed record on May 26, 1934, when it went from Denver to Chicago in thirteen hours and then went on display at Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34).
In 1960, the CB&Q donated the Zephyr to the M.S.I. For thirty-four years, it sat outside behind the East Pavilion, near the U-505 (which is now also inside). The M.S.I. paid to have Northern Railcar Corporation restore the Zephyr to 1934 conditions for a cost of $1,500,000, much of the funding coming from The Grainger Foundation. The process took about three years, and the train was brought back to Chicago via truck in 1997. The 31,000-square-foot Great Hall and new Zephyr exhibit All Aboard the Silver Streak opened on July 16, A.D. 1998.
The Zephyr stands between the two wings of M.S.I.’s underground garage, which is under the north lawn. Thus, the entrance to the exhibit hall is at the north end of the Entry Hall (formerly known as the Great Hall). The Entry Hall connects the garage and Zephyr exhibit hall to the rest of the Museum by way of escalators, stairs, and elevators at the south end of the Entry Hall.
The entrance to the exhibit now has an eye-catching red color scheme that matches the shame of red in the frame of the Burlington Zephyr emblem on the front of the train. The red color scheme continues with shelves that support historic photographs on both sides of the train, the ramp on the starboard side of the train, and the stairs that lead up the platform.
The Zephyr’s exhibit space used to be well-illuminated space that was three stories tall and visitors who parked in the underground garage were able to look down on the train through large windows. The exhibit hall is now one story tall, and visitors are no longer able to look down on the train from within the garage. Now, the exhibit hall is a dark space with dramatic lighting that lends it a romantic atmosphere.
There continues to be a platform on the starboard side of the train. There is a different educational display on the platform. This new display is devoted to traction motors. In addition to the aforementioned stairs that lead up to the platform from the rear of the train, there is now an elevator for the benefit of wheelchair-bound people who want to go all the way around the train.
There is now an animation running on floor-to-ceiling screens on the portside side of the train. This animation emphasizes the speed and streamlining of the Zephyr.
Formerly, there were display cases at the back of the exhibit hall, and they have been removed. Where there had been a display case devoted to a security guard uniform and artifacts from A Century of Progress, there is now a shelf on which rests a group of artistically arranged photographs. There remains a movie theater behind the Zephyr, but it is different and there are no longer display cases featuring artifacts that demonstrated the influence of streamlining on the design of everyday household devices in the 1930s. The hologram of an actor in character as a 1930s U.S. Post Office trainman explaining how the postal service worked on trains continues to play.
Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes
Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes is devoted to the history of Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios. A large part of the exhibit is devoted to costumes and props from films and television shows in the M.C.U. It also includes some costumes and props that appeared in Columbia’s Spider-Man films, but do not expect to see costumes or props from the Blade films, which were made by New Line or the X-Men films and television show or Fantastic Four films, which were made by 20th Century Fox.
Throughout the exhibit are many examples of “original art.” These are hand-drawn and lettered pages that were turned into comic books. Artists including Jack Kirby; Steve Ditko; John Buscema; John Romita, Senior; and Gene Colan drew art by hand in pencil. Then inkers, including Dick Ayers, Tom Palmer, and Hohn Sinnott drew over the pencil drawings in ink and erased unnecessary pencil lines. The examples of original art in the exhibit are identified by spiky word balloons on the exhibit labels.
This traveling exhibit was organized by SC Exhibitions; the Museum of Popular Culture (“MoPop”) in Seattle, Washington; and Marvel Themed Entertainment. BMO Harris Bank is the sponsor of the exhibit at the M.S.I.
The exhibit is divided between two galleries, both of which are on the Main Floor in the Museum of Science and Industry’s Central Pavilion. The first gallery is along the west wall of the North Court, also known as the Rosenwald Court, and the second one is along the south wall of the East Court (Transportation Gallery).
Scottish composer Lorne Balfe created the cinematic music that plays in the background of the exhibit. Mr. Balfe is a rising star amongst film composers. He scored the last Mission Impossible film and will score the next one, too. More germane to this exhibit, he scored Black Widow (2021), which will be the first film of Phase 4 of the M.C.U.
I recommend going through this exhibit with a spouse, friend, or group of friends or relatives because if you want to have your picture taken with the superhero statues, you are not really going to take everything in, even with a selfie stick, unless someone stands several feet back and snaps the picture.
Take Flight Re-Opens
On September 28, A.D. 1992, the 727 landed at Meigs Field on a runway that was not built to accommodate jetliners. On October 1, A.D. 1992, it was loaded onto a barge and towed to Burns International Harbor in Indiana. Thousands of people gathered along Lake Shore Drive to watch the 727 towed across Lake Shore Drive in September of 1993 (much as the U-505 had been towed across Lake Shore Drive in 1954). To bring the 727 into the M.S.I. required dismantling the plane and removing a column. The exhibit Take Flight opened in 1994. It closed on Monday, October 5, A.D. 2020 to undergo renovations and re-opened on Thursday, May 13, A.D. 2021.
“United 727’s airplane, dramatically positioned high above the Museum’s main floor, has been a one-of-a-kind sight that has amazed millions of guests. We’re excited to showcase the plane in a new way that highlights modern advances in aviation,” stated M.S.I. President and C.E.O. Chevy Humphrey.
Boeing and United Airlines support the exhibit Take Flight, which is covered by Museum Entry (general admission). Visitors can view the plane’s mechanical, electronic, and hydraulic systems, engines, and landing gear. A part of the cabin has been restored to the way it looked in 1964.
Capacity is limited and visitors must purchase timed-entry tickets in advance online by visiting www.msichicago.org/tickets. There are social distancing measures in place. Face coverings are required for employees and guests ages two-and-over.
Museum Entry (general admission) tickets are $21.95 for adults and $12.95 for children (ages three-to-eleven). It is free for Members. Museum Entry tickets cover most permanent exhibits such as Science Storms and Numbers by Nature and many temporary exhibits. It does not cover parking, special exhibits and events, or Giant Dome Theater films.
Giant Dome Theater tickets are $12 for adults and $9 for children (ages three-to-eleven). For Members, tickets are free or discounted.
Tickets for Fab Lab and Learning Labs are $12 for adults and $9 for children (ages ten-to-eleven). For Members, tickets are free or discounted.
Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes tickets are $18 for adults, $14 for children (ages three-to-eleven) or $9 for Members.
During Spring and Summer of 2021 (through Monday, September 6, A.D. 2021), the Museum of Science and Industry is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, and, for now, will be closed on Mondays. That includes Memorial Day (Monday, May 31, A.D. 2021). It will be open exclusively to Members on Friday, June 11, A.D. 2021. The Museum will be closed on Thursday, November 25, A.D. 2021 (Thanksgiving) and Saturday, December 25, A.D. 2021 (the First Day of Christmas).
Located in the neighborhood of East Hyde Park in Hyde Park (Community Area #41) on the South Side of Chicago, the M.S.I. is situated at the northeast corner of the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park, at the intersection of 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive. The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.
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 Meigs Field was an airport on Northerly Island in the Chicago Park District’s Burnham Park that was in operation from 1948 to 2003. It was named after Merrill C. Meigs (1883-1968), publisher of the Chicago Herald and Examiner and a pilot. Northerly Island is an artificial peninsula that is connected to the mainland by a causeway. Mayor Richard M. Daley forced the closure of Meigs Field by having bulldozers ruin the runway overnight without notice, in violation of Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) regulations. Subsequently, the Chicago Park District added a prairie, an outdoor concert venue, a bike trail, a lagoon, and a beach to Northerly Island.