Ever since I read Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, I've always been curious about the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. And certainly once I found out that I'd be living here my interest grew exponentially. If you didn't know, the Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the original Palace of Fine Arts building. While the other buildings of the World's Fair (held to commemorate Columbus's arrival in the New World) were built to be temporary structures, the Palace of Fine Arts was built to be... well... slightly less temporary. Since it would house priceless works of art, the building was built with a brick substructure in order to make it more sturdy (and fire resistant) than its White City neighbors. Fast-forward 118 years and this building is one of the only signs that the fair was even here. So that's why Dr. Lisa Snyder's work is so interesting: it let's you explore an amazing yet fleeting moment in American (and world) history.
The Statue of the Republic, seen above, was as tall as a 10 story building and her nose was 30 inches. (photo courtesy of Dr. Lisa Snyder)
Lisa is with the Urban Simulation Team at UCLA and has been working on this labor of love since 1996. And once you see the simulation, you can understand why it's so time consuming. The exposition covered more than 600 acres and Lisa is painstakingly recreating the environment by piecing together photographs, sketches, paintings and maps. You get to see the grounds from a human scale; it looks like you're walking through this world. And to really bring the story to life, Lisa teams up with Tim Samuelson, Cultural Historian for the City of Chicago, for public presentations each year at MSI. Tim is one of those people with a knack for story-telling and the historical knowledge to back it up. I don't think I'd ever get tired of listing to Tim tell stories about Chicago. And with Lisa's visuals, it was an amazing presentation.
I'm not a history buff but I loved seeing the simulation. If you ever have a chance, I highly recommend it. Second best: check out the project website for some video clips taking you through the fair. And if you want to learn a little more about the history of MSI and it's building, check out this link.
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A digital marketing analyst from Chicago, Kevin is living inside the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere for 30 days.
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