Sunday, January 17, 2010

Marshall Field's and the Field Museum

Yes, their names are similar: Marshall Field, Field Museum.

But beyond just the assumption that he gave a lot of many, how many modern Chicagoans actually know the link between Marshall Field and the museum that bears his name?

The founding of a museum to house biological and anthropolical specimens predates any involvement of Field. The museum came about because people felt there was a need to save and preserve collections assembled for Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Those collections -- which formed the core of what later grew into a much larger collection -- were at the center of a new museum incorporated on Sept. 16, 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago. And it was housed, logically enough, in Jackson Park, where the Columbian Exposition had been.
The building chosen was also the logical one -- the building erected as the Palace of Fine Arts. While it had a glistening plaster facade like many other buildings put up for the Fair, its costly art contents demanded greater protection and strength. So it was the only Fair structure built of brick, given it a permanence that virtually all the other fair buildings lacked.

Not until 1905 did the museum's name change to honor Chicago's retail giant. As the museum's first large-scale benefactor, Marshall Field won the honor of seeing the museum changed to the Field Museum of Natural History.

The museum stayed in Jackson Park until 1921, when it moved to its present site on what is now known as the Museum Campus.

When the Field Museum left Jackson Park, the former Palace of Fine Arts was eventually transformed into the home of the Museum of Science and Industry.