On August 25, 1925, America's very first black labor union was formed, and it didn't happen without a fight. For Asa Phillip Randolph, leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, it took 12 hard years of negotiation to ensure job safety for African American workers. But Randolph's hard-won victory had lasting effects, paving the way for the American Civil Rights Movement and rewriting the book of the nation's history.
The tale of Randolph and the Pullman Porters is lovingly chronicled, celebrated, and namesaked at the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum. Founded by Dr. Lyn Hughes in 1995, the museum is a testament to the struggle for equality and a celebration of African-American railroad workers. Through their permanent collection of artifacts, along with traveling exhibits, the APR Pullman Porter Museum examines the railroad men's impact on African-American history, from the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 through the 1963 March on Washington.
After health, the most important thing parents want for their children is a good education, and that means learning inside the classroom and out. But if learning becomes simply memorizing facts in a textbook, it quickly turns into a chore, leading kids to lives of mindless entertainment and ignoring the last 12 mystery ingredients on junk-food labels.
To combat this, The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn exposes children to the arts, sciences, and industry with a series of engaging exhibits that uphold the standards set by the Illinois State Board of Education. These exhibits occupy every inch of their two-story facility, giving kids hands-on experience with concepts such as cause and effect, gravity, and motion. Painting and dress-up theaters cultivate healthy imaginations, and the infant tummy-time zone allows even the tiniest guests to flex their neck muscles and reach stuffed-animal friends. In addition to daily visitors, The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn welcomes school field trips and family birthday parties.
From a 17-foot-tall statue of King Tutankhamun to a 40-ton sculpture of a human-headed winged bull that once stood in the palace of an Assyrian king, The Oriental Institute Museum houses the many-splendored wonders of ancient Middle East. The treasures–which also include jewelry, mummies, and some of the earliest written documents in the world–represent the life's work of the University of Chicago's archaeologists, the real-life Indiana Joneses who bring the past to life through their excavations and research. Guided tours help visitors explore the galleries, and special programs introduce students to hands-on archaeological experiences such as simulated digs and artifact analysis.
Exhibits spanning the history of 5,000 years fill galleries such as the Mesopotamian Gallery, where more than 1,000 objects lurk beneath the glass of custom-designed walnut cases. Graphic displays describe pottery, clay tablets, and metal jewelry from one of the world's first urban civilizations, all of which surround centerpieces such as the Code of Hammurabi. The museum's East Wing Galleries explore cultures of ancient Assyria, Anatolia, and Israel through artifacts such as a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, carved reliefs from an Assyrian palace, and Bronze Age tools, weapons, and figurines. In the Egyptian Gallery, limestone-lined cabinets house 800 objects such as carvings, canopic jars, a child mummy, and the bust of King Neferhotep.
In addition to tending to the permanent collection, the staff also assembles special events such as archaeology workshops, lectures, and screenings of films set in the ancient Middle East that let visitors delve deeper into the past. The museum also hosts enthralling temporary exhibits; on now through July 28, 2013, “Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt” explores the birds of the Nile Valley and their impact on Egyptian arts, religion, and cultural development.
Today, millions of people live and thrive among the streets and skyscrapers of Chicago, but at one time the bustling metropolis had only one resident—namely, the city's apocryphal, somewhat legendary founder, Jean Baptist Point DuSable. A Haitian of French and African descent, DuSable was the first of Chicago's great African Americans, a company that includes the city's first black mayor, Harold Washington. In one of the DuSable Museum's standing exhibits, the Thomas Miller mosaics, portraits of DuSable and Washington peer out along with eight of the founding members of the museum—a constellation of lodestars reminding visitors to maintain Chicago's diverse heritage.
While the mosaics incorporate the museum's own story, other exhibits examine African American achievements of all kinds. Red, White, Blue & Black, for instance, examines the contributions of black men and women in the armed forces, while voices from the past sing out in Spread the Word! The Evolution of Gospel, a survey of Chicago-based gospel greats such as Mahalia Jackson and Thomas Dorsey. In A Slow Walk to Greatness: The Harold Washington Story, visitors explore the nuances of the momentous campaign through memorabilia and more than 150 mayoral artifacts. An animatronic likeness of Mayor Washington himself even steps in to relay stories and first-hand accounts made possible by animatronic robots' ability to travel through time. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts musical performance, film festivals, and book signings that introduce members to more aspects of African American history, including the scholars who continue to uncover it.
Across two floors and 6,700 square feet, KidsWork Children's Museum's prompts hands-on play with scores of new exhibits. A table-top interactive computer, or SMART table, stimulates kids' brains with interactive puzzles and games. A weekly music class on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. invite kids to make some noise with instruments made from recycled materials. Interlocking wooden builder boards encourage open-ended play; there's also a floor piano, an interactive ATM, and story time at 10 a.m. on Tuesday mornings. The museum welcomes field-trip groups and birthday parties to explore its innards as well as special-needs families, members, and walk-in visitors.
While large groups are welcome, each child is celebrated through hands-on play. Just look at the gigantic, three-dimensional Pinscreen exhibit, a jumbo version of the classic toy that uses sliding pins to create a 3-D impression of whatever you press into them—in this case, your entire body. Along with the Lincoln-Way North Key Club, the Frankfort Fire Department helped construct the three walls by painstakingly inserting nearly 200,000 pins by hand. Their effort resulted in one of the museum's most popular interactive displays. More than that, it reflects the sense of community, curiosity, and creativity that the museum strives to engender in its patrons.
The Museum of Science and Industry, opened in 1933, has nearly 14 acres of interactive exhibits and more than 35,000 intellect-tickling artifacts. Current exhibits include YOU! The Experience, which explores the intellectual, corporeal, spiritual, and immiscible aspects of human life through 50 interactive experiences; Science Storms, which explains the science behind natural phenomena and allows visitors to control the air flow of a 40-foot tornado, make a tsunami in a 30-foot wave tank, and more; and the U-505 Submarine, which showcases a German submarine captured off the coast of West Africa during World War II. Plus, classic exhibits such as the Coal Mine are always available.
The National Museum of Mexican Art features more than 7,000 artworks that span a timeline from ancient Mexico to modern-day masterpieces. As the country’s only Latino museum accredited by the American Association of Museums, it aims to provide a view into the richness of Mexican culture through programs and exhibitions that explore issues of social justice in local communities. Twenty of its exhibitions have toured the country, and its resumé includes The African Presence in Mexico and Frida’s Contemporaries: Women Artists of Modern Mexico. In addition to visual art, the museum’s cultural programs also display a range of other art forms including music, dance, and theater, and its annual Sor Juana Festival honors the accomplishments of Mexican women.