Have you ever wondered how to cram four billion years of history into an hour? The Field Museum’s awesome new exhibit, “Evolving Planet,” does it. State-of-the-art technology and the latest research on evolution combine to give visitors a taste of exactly what’s been going on with our planet before and after dinosaurs.
The museum has updated and expanded the previous evolution exhibit, “Life Over Time,” to make visitors feel as if we are part of the action. Using video, computer animation, giant timelines, written placards, photography and recorded audio, curators make learning accessible and interesting to a variety of ages and education levels.
Instead of just reading about the Cambrian and Ordovician periods (500 million years ago), my kids and I stepped into a room with huge curved projection screens with creatures swimming around us. Signs directed us to look for shapes and creatures we recognized. While my young sons were captivated by the video, I explored the amazing collection of fossils from the period. “Evolving Planet,” in fact, showcases hundreds of never before displayed fossils, many of which are rare or exclusive to the Field Museum.
And, of course, there are the dinosaurs. The new Hall of Dinosaurs is filled with skeletons, information to read, buttons to push and objects to touch. Long-time Field Museum visitors will be happy to know that the famous dinosaur murals painted eighty years ago have been restored and continue to decorate the exhibit. For a younger generation, raised on television, there are multiple monitors with cartoons illustrating the latest scientific theories and findings.
I anticipated that the dinosaurs would be the highlight of our visit, but my kids were eager to continue along the evolution path to learn about the evolution of mammals, animals and humans. Here they could compare the skeletons of the earliest horses and touch bronze casts of hands and faces as Homo sapiens evolved. They even learned the differences between mastodons and mammoths.
It has been a long two years for our family without an in-depth dinosaur exhibit. But Evolving Planet is worth the wait. Alena Murguia
Editors note: Chicago Parent is sponsoring Dinosaur Discovery Days from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday as part of the opening weekend of "Evolving Planet." Come for hands-on activities. The Field Museum. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 11 and 12. Families. Free with museum admission. 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago. (312) 922-9410, www.fieldmuseum.org.