To give you an idea of what visiting the Chicago History Museum is like . . . look at it this way – the Field Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Science and Industry are massive places that are hard to take in within a single visit. The Chicago History Museum, by contrast, can be pretty well covered in about 3 hours, depending on how much you wish to linger over the details.
There are some remarkable items in the permanent collection there. For example, they have the bed from the hotel across the street from the Ford Theater upon which Abraham Lincoln died. As I have always read, it was indeed far too small for Lincoln’s 6’4” frame; I can’t imagine anyone taller than about 5’6” being comfortable on it, though in all fairness, being uncomfortable was the least of Abe’s problems at that moment.
One of the new exhibits, and one of my favorite things in the whole place, is a genuine 1890’s L car. Not only is it in amazing condition, but you can even walk on board and sit on the seats, upholstered in what appears to be lacquered straw. I love these kinds of exhibits – that can put me directly into the environment of a bygone time!
CC is a fashion teacher, and the exhibit that drew her there is a stunning exhibit of Christian Dior creations from the 1940’s and 50’s. There are perhaps 30 or so garments there, beautifully displayed with plenty of helpful signage. For my part, attending such an exhibit with someone like CC is like having my own personal tour guide – she knows so much about what we’re looking at that her commentary adds a terrific additional dimension to the experience. By the way, in case you live here or plan on visiting and this is up your alley, the Dior exhibit will be there until May 20, 2007. Bring CC with you if you can!
All in all, they’ve done a laudable job of remodeling and expanding the museum, taking a place I was already very fond of and making it even better! I will close with this image, a view of the Van Buren El Station in the Loop, as seen circa 1905.