Free February Admission, new Viking exhibit at Field Museum

By Bianca Martinez Metro Reporter

Chicagoans looking for a fun, free attraction need only look to the Museum Campus. The Field Museum is offering free admission to all Illinois residents during the month of February. 

While the museum has 17 permanent exhibits, it currently has six special exhibits, a prominent one being the Vikings Exhibit, which runs from Feb. 27 through Oct. 4.

Susan Neill, project manager of the Vikings Exhibit, said she expects the exhibit to draw a large crowd to the museum. Organizers have been working on the exhibit for more than three years, Neill said.

The exhibit will feature tools for farming, textile production, pottery, food-related materials, jewelry, crafts, woods and metals on display.

One of the exhibit’s main attractions, the Krampmacken ship, was in the water in Victoria Island, British Columbia in Canada, prior to coming to Chicago and had to be placed in the museum with a crane. Curators had

to modify the boat to fit in the museum’s space and get the bugs out of the boat before it was exposed to the rest of the collection, according to William Parkinson, associate curator at the Field Museum.  

The exhibition demonstrates how wide of an area the Vikings’ trade system covered to remind visitors about the start of globalization. The exhibit also features several pieces that were found in archaeological digs such as a sword, a pendant, a helmet replica and other materials that come from as far as India, Parkinson said. 

Traveling exhibits are made into modulars so they can be reassembled in different ways from venue to venue to accommodate for the different space requirements in each venue, Neill said.

Emily Waldren, Public Relations Director at the Field Museum, said this exhibit exposes the myths behind the Vikings, such as their helmets having two horns. This theory was an invention in the 19th century by a costume designer, she said. 

Waldren said a survey was conducted about a year ago with Field Museum fans on Facebook to gauge interest in some possible temporary exhibitions. The Vikings Exhibit resonated well with the public.

The Field Museum offers many other intriguing exhibitions.

The Traveling the Pacific exhibit explores different kinds of rock formed from cooling lava and investigates the geological forces that created Hawaii and the thousands of other island chains of the Pacific Ocean, according to the Field Museum’s website.  

Field Museum volunteer and adjunct Columbia faculty member in the Journalism Department Peter von Buol said he enjoys the Pacific Halls, which include the Hawaiian volcanoes and the meetinghouse. He said one of his favorite items on display is a carving from a national park in Hawaii.

David Dolak, senior lecturer in Columbia’s Science & Mathematics Department, said the museum has a number of sleepovers every year where kids get to sleep in some of the exhibit hallways.

“You can sleep with the dinosaurs,” Dolak said. 

He said there are educational sleepover programs where kids can come and have games in the evenings.

Dolak said he currently volunteers at the museum a few weekends every month and gives tours of the geology exhibits to visitors. 

One of the most notorious parts of the museum is the taxidermy exhibit by Carl Akeley, who is considered the father of modern taxidermy.  He was also a very well-known naturalist, sculptor, writer and inventor in the 1800s. 

“The animal displays are, in my opinion, second to none,” von Buol said. 

Von Buol said Akeley’s animals look as alive today as they did a hundred years ago. 

“[They have] the first pandas that were brought to the U.S. and a whale skeleton that was on display in the World’s Fair that is full size and real,” von Buol said.