Birds, gems and more: Field Museum lets you in on its secrets

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CHICAGO -- You likely know Sue and the fighting African elephants, two of the impressive pieces which permanently watch over the Field Museum’s Stanley Field Hall. But behind the exhibit walls sit more than 150 scientists and millions of specimens which make the Field one of the largest natural history museums in the world.

It was the Columbian Exposition of 1893 that launched the museum.  Then 65,000 items were housed in the Jackson Park location.

Today on the museum campus more than 28 million specimens sit in thousands of cabinets, lockers and moveable shelves above and below exhibits.  They are shared and studied by researchers but never to be seen by the public.

There’s a fish collection of about two million species from the 1800s to today. Wet and dry specimens make up the four and a half million in the invertebrates collection, some more than 250 years old.

Pieces from history sit on virtually every shelf of the physical geology collection.  One of the largest is the nearly 200 pound Santa Rosa meteorite came to the field in the early 1900s.   It also includes the gems and jewelry acquisitions with glass copies of all the world’s most famous diamonds, beautiful pendants, opera glasses and gold accessories from the 20s and 30s.

More than half million specimens of birds are also included in the Field Museum.

The museum has carried and unlocked secrets for nearly a century and a quarter and it will continue to do it for decades yet to come.