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.
The Chicago Academy of Sciences created a library and collection of flora and fauna specimens that burnt in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, just 14 years after its inception. By 1894, the academy had regrouped and rebuilt its collection in Lincoln Park, where it stood for more than 100 years. In 1999, the academy turned it into the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, a family-friendly museum filled with exhibits that let visitors explore the flora, fauna, and ecology of the Great Lakes region.
The 6.35-acre campus hosts more than 15,000 plants, 13,000 birds, and 22,000 amphibians and reptiles in its specimen collections. As visitors walk through Popular attractions include the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, where visitors can stand in a swirl of 1,000 exotic butterflies, and Mysteries of the Marsh and the Istock Family Look-in Lab, which feature dozens of living creatures, such as turtles, snakes, and giant bugs. The two-story Extreme Green House offers a hands-on look at the materials and technologies that surround us.
In addition to educating the public, the museum is a local leader in wildlife conservation. It's nestled in acres of restored prairie, where visitors can spot migratory birds and other native critters and plants. Outdoor exhibits include 17,000 square feet of green roofs, a restored-prairie nature trail, and a rooftop birdwalk.
When entrepreneur Harold Pierce opened the first Harold’s Chicken Shack on Chicago’s South Side in 1950, his chefs fried chicken as it was ordered, filling customers' empty hands with baskets of fresh, piping-hot chicken in 12–15 minutes. Today, the chain of 62 restaurants peppered across the Midwest and Southwest continues the old tradition of rewarding patience with astonishingly delicious chicken. The long-standing shop specializes in a simple order—breaded chicken fried in a rich mix of vegetable oil and beef tallow for a home-cooked flavor. Chefs prep the chicken Chicago style by pouring a dash of sauce over the basket, which soaks into the white bread and crinkle fries that come with every order. Marked with the famed emblem of a cook chasing a chicken with a hatchet, the restaurant has saturated the city’s consciousness, earning a mention in Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, an appearance in Kanye West’s music video Through the Wire, and its own chicken hologram projected over the skyline. Serious Eats sums up citywide sentiment for the chain: "When the words 'fried chicken' are uttered in Chicago, it’s a fair bet that the name Harold’s Chicken Shack will usually follow."
Founded in 1982 with the mission of spreading an understanding of war's impact on the lives of soldiers, the National Veterans Art Museum showcases more than 2,000 works of art created by more than 255 veterans. The museum's oeuvre, which comprises paintings, photography, sculpture, and music, focuses on Vietnam but includes artwork inspired by all of America's wars. In addition to keep a permanent collection, the museum hosts rotating temporary exhibits that honor and remember veterans and keep the subject matter fresh. Visitors and members enjoy an active social calendar, stocked with events that feature live music and plays performed entirely with the NATO phonetic alphabet.
Arts & Artisans showcases work by more than 500 contemporary American artists, designers, and craftspeople. Each one-of-a-kind piece is handmade, and knowledgeable employees can expound on the history and techniques behind each functional and decorative item ranging from wood sculpture to women’s clothing. Artfully crafted jewelry helps accentuate patrons’ facial features, and a collection of jewelry boxes cradles wearable investments during casual dream sessions.
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.