Chicago is a big place, with many attractions that are fun and interesting, where we can learn a few things about this great city, and even more about the world in which we live. This month, let’s focus on some of Chicago’s less well known locales for taking in history, art and culture that has shaped Chicago into the magnificent metropolis we have today. Here are just five of the finest smaller museums Chicago has for you to explore; four of the five are quite close together, and the last is not very far away.
Let’s start at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St., at the very south end of Lincoln Park. In their own words, “The Chicago History Museum cares for, showcases, and interprets millions of authentic pieces of Chicago and U.S. history.” So whether you are a Chicago resident, or just a visitor looking to learn a bit more, this is the place to start. The museum is the city’s oldest cultural institution, founded in 1856, and rebuilt after the Chicago Fire of 1871. Here you’ll find exhibitions such as Chicago: Crossroads of America and Sensing Chicago, and Imagining Chicago: The Dioramas, which provide much insight into the lives of our citizens through the years.
From here, it’s a short walk to the The International Museum of Surgical Science, located at 1524 N. Lake Shore Drive. Did you even think there would be a museum dedicated to the history of surgical science and practice? Not only is it right here in Chicago, it’s located in a beautiful limestone mansion that was built to be “a near-replica of la Petit Trianon, the palatial playground of Queen Marie Antoinette.” It houses both permanent and temporary exhibits, including “A World Without Polio,” which documents the centuries old fight against this disease which used to kill or cripple hundreds of thousands of people each year, and now affects fewer than 1,000 in three countries.
On a more artistic note, Loyola University’s Museum of Art (LUMA) is less than a mile away, at 820 North Michigan Avenue, numerous collections and exhibits, all within the museum’s theme of “Art Illuminating the Spirit.” Especially beautiful are the Windows of Faith, stained glass representations of the world’s five largest religious faiths: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. There is much more to see, and you will find many pieces here that will, indeed, lift your spirit.
The Richard H. Driehaus Museum, at 40 East Erie Street, is less than half a mile from the LUMA. The entire building, as well as it’s contents, are the museum. Originally the Samuel M. Nickerson Mansion, built by Chicago architects Burling and Whitehouse, it is a stunning example of historic preservation, with interiors, displays and exhibitions that showcase the fine arts of late 19th and early 20th centuries. You see Tiffany lamps, a stained glass dome, intricate and visually stunning stone and wood work, statuary, and much much more. The restoration took four years, and the dedication of more than 40 different specialists and companies to succeed. It’s all very beautiful.
Perhaps you should visit those four places on one day, and save this last one for it’s own special visit. Considering the many years that Ukrainian people have been living in Chicago, and the active life and culture of the Ukrainian Village neighborhood, you will not at all be surprised to find the Ukrainian National Museum of Chicago, in the heart of Ukrainian Village, at 2249 W. Superior St. The Village is home to three churches, two banks, the museum, a cultural center, and much more, including a number of good restaurants and stores. The museum has portraits such as those of Kozak Hetmans like one eyed Danylo Apostol, a large collection of musical instruments, wonderfully and intricately embroidered shirts and blouses, and finely decorated household items such as cups and plates. There’s so much more and all so interesting. I’m learning about the major periods of immigration to the US from Ukraine, from before WWI until today. Amazing!
This is only a very small selection from Chicago’s many museums and art and cultural centers, I have discovered about 30, and believe there are many more. We’ll find out in coming months, yes? In the meantime, enjoy Chicago, visit some or all of these places, and always enrich your life.
Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
The International Museum of Surgical Science
1524 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60610
312.642.6502 ext. 3130
Loyola University Museum of Art
820 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Richard H. Driehaus Museum
40 East Erie Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611
312 482 8933
Ukrainian National Museum of Chicago
2249 W. Superior St.
Chicago, Illinois 60612