The Field Museum’s best kept secret

Instead of a clown or an arcade birthday party, why not entertain your kids with a dinosaur-themed party featuring a replica of Sue’s skull?

For a fee, the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex jaws that greet visitors in the main hall at Chicago’s Field Museum can greet the kids at your child’s birthday party. Pair it with a Sue-themed experience box and your child will be the coolest kid in school thanks to the Harris Educational Loan Program at the Field Museum.

In 1911, an endowment from Norman Wait Harris, founder of Harris bank, allowed the museum to create a lending library unlike any other. Custom-designed and curator-approved exhibit cases were created for anyone to check out from the Harris Loan Center.

Today, more than 800 exhibit cases, small dioramas put together as early as the 1920s, display animals and plants in their natural habitats. Information is included with each diorama. Experience boxes, which number more than 70, focus on three disciplines: culture, biology and earth sciences. Each box contains a wide variety of materials ranging from specimens to artifacts that assist in teaching a particular subject.

Audio and video materials, as well as children’s books, are available for checkout.

“These resources are great teaching materials for homeschools, families and curious kids,” says Mara Cosillo-Starr, reserve center manager. “We have seen older adults come to the museum and delight in seeing exhibits here that were on loan to their classroom when they were kids. It’s a powerful teaching tool.”

Topics can be researched on the center’s Web site to help parents and teachers decide which items would fit their needs.

Anyone can check out these items after obtaining a Harris Loan Center membership. Teachers pay $30, homeschool teachers and parents pay $60 and museum members pay $30. School groups can register for various fees. Larger items may require additional fees.

Contact the Harris Loan Center online at or call (312) 665-7555. Visit 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday or 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sundays, Mondays and holidays.

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