Some you win…
On this lengthy road trip, we’ve experienced few duds. Almost everywhere we’ve been has been a delight and the rest, well, it’s been ok. So I guess it was inevitable that today, our last full day together, we found the below-average attraction. Thankfully, we more than made up for it later.
We set out in the car this morning, with a couple of destinations logged into the GPS. We admired the streetscape it displays here and soon found our way to our first location – the Chicago History Museum.
Hot hot hot today, even going for breakfast this morning, so we parked as close as we could and followed the signs. “Sharing Chicago stories” sounded good and right up our alley.
Even better was the sign prohibiting guns from the place. How they’d know if we had a weapon, I have no idea, and having seen roadside ads for “concealed carry vests” (and having had Mary explain what such a thing was) I’m not altogether sure that such things could be spotted at all.
But anyway, first impressions were good. There was a lively display in the lobby and as we purchased our tickets, I looked forward to learning a little more about this exciting city, the characters who have lived here and the events which shaped the place.
The first story was kind of familiar. We already knew the name Pritzker from the Frank Gehry designed pavilion and from Hyatt Hotels, too, but to read of the family’s beginnings and have the full story was fascinating. Good start.
I loved the photo shown on the opposite wall and felt it was evocative of a time, a place and of those people who travelled so far in the hope of a better future.
Actually, the next room wasn’t bad either, exploring the concept of “freedom”.
But somehow, some topics of which I had some knowledge fell slightly short of the mark and labels marking “exhibit removed” didn’t help.
An apt expression.
Our next stop was to watch a film, supposedly an overview of key moments in Chicago’s history but which we found to be a muddled, rather sketchy presentation which confused us all. Discovering that this was a new feature, launched on July 4 was disappointing – all of us felt that the story could have been told in an altogether clearer style.
There followed a temporary show about the Magnificent Mile and the Fashion houses which could be found along it. But once again, the story was confusing – we weren’t sure if we were following the street from one end to the other, if we were following the timeline of the fashion houses or if there was any kind of order at all. It was hard to identify how the garment displayed related to anything on the Avenue and though we enjoyed the fashion, we left feeling even more confused. In the corner, an electrician was sprawled amongst the mannequins, attempting to repair the turntable on the left hand side of the photo, but he was having little success.
So far, then, we’d learned little about the city but in the main gallery, there was hope. Here was a full size street car, a train engine and several other large exhibits. What we didn’t find was any coherence or character. The story of Marshall Fields store was in one corner, but no mention of Harry Selfridge. Where was Al Capone and his gang? Ida B Wells was a really important social activist in the city and was nationally recognised for her work but she was relegated to a minor role as a streetcar passenger and Frank Lloyd Wright was nowhere to be seen at all.
Fortunately, there was a sure fire winner in the form of a temporary exhibition of Vivian Maier’s work. We’d seen a different show at the Chicago Public Library last year and since then have watched the film and learned more about this mysterious woman and the story of the discovery of her photographs.
Here, I was delighted to see the full film contact sheets showing all twelve photographs from each of 18 films. No duds! Every single shot was great – what a talented woman she was.
The exhibition was well staged too – thank goodness, our morning wasn’t wasted!
Oh, and of course, Lincoln was here too.
We, however, were ready to move on. Driving along Lakeshore Drive on a Friday lunchtime in 95F temperatures was a fun journey. As you can see, many Chicagoans were at the beach – can you believe that’s Lake Michigan there? Looks like the Mediterranean!
Or Santa Monica. (I’m not sure Mary will agree with me on that one )
My friend Lynn has asked me why she should come to Chicago. Lynn, isn’t this the answer?
Our next stop was another museum…the Science and Industry this time.
It wasn’t exactly a peaceful place, but at least there was energy and enthusiasm here.
The displays were intelligent and not dumbed down at all, even though most were family friendly. They were genuinely interesting.
The transport area had a real 727 there, alongside a Spitfire and a Jenny. All hung above a huge model railway layout – right up someone’s alley
Oh, and whilst we’re looking at the railway layout, here is the Seattle King Street station, built by our friend James J Hill, whose home we visited in St Paul a couple of weeks ago.
I love it when stories come together like that!
Exhibits were fun to explore – this one involved playing with lenses, prisms, mirrors and light sources to make rainbows.
This one demonstrated Tesla’s work on electromagnetism and created an indoor storm every half hour or so.
A little further along, a few children stood around an artificial tornado. Great – if a little close to home since two such tornadoes have touched down not so far away from where we’ve been recently. A narrow escape, thankfully.
Two museums in one day is quite a stretch and by now, we were in need of a lie down! (Did I say how noisy it was in those lofty halls?) It was past four o’clock too and my hero was beginning to fear the rush hour on Lakeshore Drive too.
Time to go.
Yes, nose to tail traffic the whole way.
It might have given us time to take photographs of the lake and the blue blue sky, but really, all of us were weary and ready for a break. We finally reached the hotel and went straight out for supper, at Eataly again, because we’d enjoyed last evening so much.
Which brings us to the last night of our trip. This time tomorrow, we’ll be flying off in our separate directions, but for now, there are still plenty of peanut M&Ms in the bag and miraculously, there’s still some popcorn to be finished.
So why am I sitting here typing?!