“The Horse” exhibit gallops into Field Museum

The Field Museum is home to some big animals: Sue, the city’s most famous dino, and a pair of five-ton elephants greet visitors when they enter the museum’s main hall. But just a few yards away, a new exhibit opening this week highlights an animal that’s much smaller and much more closely entwined with our own history.

The Field Museum ‘s newest exhibit, The Horse, running Feb. 16-Aug. 14, explores the bond between humans and horses over some 10 million years. The exhibit features artifacts from around the world, some pretty cool 3-D animation and no fewer than nine (we counted ’em) life-sized horses.

[Watch the video! (Right)]

“For most people living in a city like Chicago , their experience with horses is cowboys and racetracks,” says Tom Skweski, the exhibit’s project manager. “There’s so much more to this story of horses and humans than just ponies.”

While there’s no “kids corner,” and nothing quite as kid-friendly as the baby mammoth that headlined the Field’s Mammoth& Mastadon’s exhibit, The Horse has plenty for young visitors. Do you have a paleontology buff? The Field Museum borrowed from its own collection of archaeological horse bones — the largest in North America — for a diorama of horse evolution and early hunting. A steam-powered fire engine, on loan from the Museum of Science and Industry, highlights horses in Chicago history. And all kids will love the pair of saddles in the rear of the exhibit that they can sit on. (You might want to bring your cowboy hat: With a sky-and-clouds backdrop, it makes for a great photo op for parents.)

The exhibit opens with an archaeology space, where kids might like the touchable recreations of ancient cave drawings. But it really gets going around the corner, where a 15-foot-wide screen displays an interactive peek inside a moving, life-sized horse (horse #1). Visitors can control the display with two touch screens. The room is rounded out by a horse skeleton (#3) and a small lesson on horse anatomy where kids can see how they measure up (#4).

The boys in the third-grade class at Tuesday’s premiere loved the next room, which is all about horses in warfare, complete with medieval knights, a horse in samurai armor (#5) and a bit on the cavalry.

Be sure to check out the horse-drawn fire engine (#6), a terra cotta horse from India (#7), and a stunning set of Native American ceremonial horse gear (#8) before moving on to some of the more modern exhibits, which include toy horses from around the world, trophies from the Kentucky Derby, and a fascinating little bit on the Pony Express.

The Horse is probably best for kids 10 and up; the kids at Tuesday’s premiere took to some features, like the 3-D computer animated horse and the saddles, but skipped over some of the more historical and archaeological parts of the exhibit.

Oh, yes. Horse #9, which you’ll catch on the way out, stands alone: a horse-shaped sculpture made of Hawaiian ohio wood branches cast in bronze. Can you find them all? Giddy up!

“The Horse” runs at the Field Museum from Feb. 16-Aug. 14. It is not included in basic admission, but is included in either the Discovery Pass ($22 for adults, $15 for children 3-11) or the All-Access Pass ($29 for adults, $20 for children)

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