Members of the Chicago Academy of Sciences first met in 1857, gathering at the original Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum to share their passion for education and the natural world. Though their meetingplace and library was burnt down in the Great Chicago Fire, their commitment to natural science stood strong. By 1894, the Academy had regrouped and rebuilt their collection in Lincoln Park, using dioramas filled with flora and fauna to create an interactive learning experience.
Today, the museum welcomes guests on a 6.35-acre campus opened in 1999 and filled with exhibits that expand the relationship between the public and nature. In addition to more than 15,000 plant specimens and 22,000 amphibians and reptiles, a wilderness walk takes guests through Midwestern environments, including praries, savannahs, and dunes, all filled with living and preserved animals. Visitors can touch live wildlife from Illinois wetlands and stand in a swirl of 1,000 exotic butterflies and birds in the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven and tropical greenhouse. Outdoor exhibits demonstrate the power of energy-efficient technology with 17,000 square feet of green roofs, the compost coral, rain-barrel ranch, and the restored native prairie made completely out of recycled soda cans.