The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) was founded in 1933 and has since celebrated more than 80 years of “inspiring the inventive genius” in our more than 180 million guests. Below are some highlights of our “hands-on” history and a peek at the amazing exhibits, experiences and memories that make MSI so unique.
Highlights from the Museum's history include:
The Palace of Fine Arts, the Museum’s current building, is constructed for the World’s Columbian Exposition, which opened the same year.
Julius Rosenwald, a philanthropist and chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Company, visits Munich’s Deutsches Museum with his young son. The boy is captivated by the science museum where exhibits move, and visitors are encouraged to push buttons and work levers. The experience sparks Julius Rosenwald’s determination to bring a similar institution to his hometown of Chicago.
Rosenwald pledges $3 million toward the creation of an industrial museum in Chicago and rallies the city’s business leaders in support of the project. Rosenwald dreams that the new museum will inspire the inventive genius in its guests, encouraging the next generation of engineers, scientists and doctors. Rosenwald identifies the old Palace of Fine Arts building in Jackson Park as a home for the planned Museum.
On June 19, MSI opens its great doors for the first time. It is the first museum in North America to feature interactive exhibits. One of the Museum’s first hands-on displays is the Coal Mine.
MSI opens its first Christmas Around the World celebration as a salute to the Allied nations in World War II.
The 3,500-square-foot Sante Fe Model Railroad layout opens to explain the integration of the railroad with the country’s industry and agriculture. The exhibit is so popular, it remains at MSI for the next 60 years, when The Great Train Story opens.
Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle becomes part of the Museum’s permanent collection.
MSI’s giant walk-through heart opens to guests. It is constructed from plaster and chicken wire, and guests can stroll through the 16-foot structure to discover how the heart works. It quickly becomes a Museum favorite.
The U-505 submarine arrives at the Museum. Guests are able to board the legendary German U-boat whose capture by the United States Navy helped the Allies win World War II. Today, this prized artifact is one of only five U-boats still in existence and the only one in the United States.
The first baby chick is hatched at the Museum. Now located in the Genetics: Decoding Life exhibit, the Baby Chick Hatchery still excites and amazes guests.
The Apollo 8 capsule arrives and becomes the centerpiece of a growing space exhibit at MSI.
The Henry Crown Space Center opens.
MSI lands a United Boeing 727 aircraft at Chicago’s Meigs Field. From Meigs Field, the 727 is towed across Lake Michigan and over Lake Shore Drive to the Museum, where it is cantilevered to the east balcony as part of the Take Flight exhibit.
Take Flight officially opens to the public as a permanent exhibit, explaining commercial flight and allowing guests to experience a simulated takeoff and landing.
MSI opens an underground parking garage. The construction allows the Museum to restore its magnificent front lawn, which had previously been a parking lot. The newly conserved Pioneer Zephyr also opens and is showcased in its new exhibit area next to the garage.
MSI opens the blockbuster Titanic exhibition and is the first institution to display artifacts from a recent dive to the legendary ship.
The Great Train Story, a 3,500-square-foot model train exhibit that explores rail operations in America, opens. The permanent display replaces the beloved model railroad exhibit and features more than 20 trains racing along 1,400 feet of track on a cross-country trip between Chicago and Seattle.
The Museum celebrates its 70th birthday and having welcomed more than 160 million guests in its history. The permanent exhibit and technological wonder ToyMaker 3000 debuts, featuring an automated assembly line of 12 robots that make 300 toy tops an hour.
Live From the Heart debuts and gives Chicago students and teachers of grades 8-12 the chance to imagine themselves as cardiologists in training by participating in an open-heart surgery via video conference with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight, the Museum, Wright Redux Association (volunteer craftsmen from Chicago’s suburbs) and Packer Engineering rebuilt the 1903 Wright Flyer—a 40-foot-wide biplane—and attempted to fly the replica on September 20 on the Museum’s front lawn, although it never took off due to lack of wind. The team successfully flew the plane October 14 at Clow International Airport in Bolingbrook, Ill. The replica is now part of MSI’s permanent collection.
Chicago native and Nobel laureate Dr. James Watson dedicated a DNA double-helix structure to the MSI’s Genetics: Decoding Life exhibit on January 20. Watson frequently visited the Museum as a youth and would later change the world of science and medicine when he discovered DNA’s double-helix structure in 1953.
In June, the new U-505 Submarine exhibit opens to the public. The Museum’s prized vessel is now part of an indoor, 35,000-square-foot interactive exhibit that tells the story of its dramatic capture.
Gunther von Hagens’ BODY WORLDS: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies, an exhibit that had awed more than 16 million people around the world with the complexity of the human body, makes its Midwest debut at MSI in February.
MSI develops and opens Leonardo da Vinci: Man, Inventor Genius in April 2006. This exhibit is the most comprehensive exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci to be presented in the United States.
The Museum opens a renovated Transportation Gallery, which interprets the history of flight in a new, spectacular overhead display. The Farm, becomes Farm Tech, a modernized exhibit addressing current farming technologies and improvements, and the Henry Crown Space Center is renovated to include new exhibits, interactive units and displays on the history and future of space travel.
MSI’s 75th anniversary is celebrated throughout the year with a special six-day celebration held in June. The landmark year is also heralded with original, world-premiere temporary exhibits including The Glass Experience, an exploration of the science and art behind glass and glassmaking; and Smart Home: Green + Wired, a three-story, eco-friendly exhibit home built on the Museum’s property.
In April, MSI announces its $205 million capital campaign, the largest since its inception, and its new vision: to inspire and motivate our children to achieve their full potential in science, technology, medicine and engineering. To support this vision, the Museum’s capital campaign will help create four iconic new exhibits and a wealth of education programs for its new Center for the Advancement of Science Education (CASE).
MSI hosts the world premiere of Harry Potter: The Exhibition from April through September.
YOU! The Experience, a 15,000-square-foot iconic permanent exhibit about human health and wellness, opens in October.
In February, MSI reveals a new logo, the first new logo in more than 10 years.
In March, the two-story Science Storms opens, revealing the extraordinary science behind some of nature’s most powerful and compelling phenomena and includes a 40-foot indoor, interactive tornado and a giant Tesla coil that produces lightning.
In October, the Museum welcomes its first roommate in the innovative Month at the Museum program. After an amazing 1,500 applications from around the world, Chicagoan Kate McGroarty won the chance to live at MSI 24/7 and share her adventures with guests and the world through social media.
In October, the Museum welcomes its second roommate in Month at the Museum 2.
In March, MSI hosts the world premiere of MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition based off of Discovery Channel’s Emmy®-nominated series MythBusters.
In March, MSI opens The Art of the Bicycle, featuring historic bikes from the Museum’s collection as well as some of the most cutting-edge bicycles on the market today.
In June, the Museum celebrates its 80th anniversary with the 80 at 80 exhibit, which showcases 80 unique objects from the Museum’s collection that help tell the story of innovation and progress.
In September, the Museum opens Future Energy Chicago, a 7,200-square-foot permanent exhibition where students, families and guests take a fresh and dynamic look at our energy choices through a multi-player simulation that allows them to create their own solutions.
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