Museum of Science and Industry

I've never considered myself much of a history guy. I work with numbers in my professional life, but I'm pitiful at remembering dates: birthdays, holidays, important years in history. No clue - it's just not a strength of mine. But I love learning backstories (thus my love of Collections) and understanding the history behind everyday parts of our present-day life.

Over the course of MSI's 78 years, the Museum has cultivated a number of traditions. I hear from visitors who tour the coal mine during every visit since they first came as a kid and others who make yearly stops at the chick hatchery. And then, of course, there's Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Lights. Having not grown up in Chicago, I didn't really understand what the exhibit (more accurately: celebration) was all about. But as the trees have started to spring up over the last week, I've stated to understand. It's impressive.

The whole display started with a single Christmas tree back in 1942 as a United Nations Day tribute to the Allied troops fighting in WW2. Over the years the single tree has multiplied like Gremlins in a swimming pool (but much more elegantly) to the current crop of over 50 (normally sized) trees and one gigantic 45 foot tree in the central Rotunda. The trees are decorated by different cultural groups from Chicago to represent their traditions and celebrations. It's really a community effort.

A science museum purist may question the relevance of Christmas trees; I initially wondered the same thing. But as I learned more about the history of the celebration, the fit became more and more natural - not necessarily as a science museum, but as member of the Chicago community. These trees started (and continue to serve) as a pick-me-up for the community during a difficult period of time. And as I see volunteers decorate, guests peruse and as I place the tree-topper (via hydraulic lift) I understand more and more. Here's a quick video of me placing the topper.

On my final day here, I have the privilege of lighting the main tree, with its 30,000+ lights and 1,000+ ornaments, to officially open the exhibit on November 17th. To be part of this tradition, one that I now more fully understand, will be really special. Being a part of MSI's history in general: it's just amazing.


I couldn't help but get in the spirit today. Here are some photos of me in action.

 While making a wreath for my cube, I somehow ended up fully decked out in Santa gear. (thanks to Jeff in Temporary Exhibits)

 Perfectly gaudy.

 Even the logo gets in on the action.

Basking in the glow at the end of the day.

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kevin byrne

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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