New 1893 World’s Fair Exhibit At Chicago’s Field Museum!


1893 World's Fair Exhibit

When I was working on my book a couple of years ago, I researched the 1893 World’s Fair pretty extensively for the chapter I wrote about Chicago history. The World’s Columbian Exposition, as it was also called, is extremely fascinating to me. Here’s some of what I wrote about it:

“The World’s Columbian Exposition was conceptualized as an 1892 celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the New World. The cities of St. Louis, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago competed fiercely for the privilege of hosting the World’s Fair and representing the United States to the rest of the world. (Chicago ended up having the deepest pockets due to some last-minute investors, and swayed the decision!) Burnham gathered together a who’s who of artists and architects to fill the exposition grounds with sculpture and Beaux-Arts style buildings, which were covered with stucco and painted white, causing visitors to refer to the area as the ‘White City’.”

“Most notable among the collection of attractions, concessions, and sideshows along the mile-long Midway Plaisance was the very first Ferris Wheel…The Midway Plaisance also hosted ethnographic exhibits from the world over, including an African village and Streets of Cairo exhibit, that were meant to introduce the general public to foreign cultures and different ways of life.”

“The anthropological exhibits on the Midway were exhibited in 1894 after the Exposition, in the former Palace of Fine Arts—now called the Field Museum of Natural History. Later the Field Museum was relocated to the area now known as Museum Campus and the Palace of Fine Arts was retooled to become the Museum of Science and Industry.”

During my research I came across all kinds of wonderful pictures that only added to the intrigue for me, so when I found out that The Field Museum was presenting a new exhibit about this, one of the greatest and most important events in Chicago history (so important that one of the four red stars on the city flag represents it!), I couldn’t wait to go. Since The Field Museum was actually founded to commemorate the Fair, it has the single largest collection of items displayed there. It’s also the legacy of the Fair: scientists conduct ground-breaking research on the ever-growing collections, and exhibitions display objects from its vaults for the public to see. They are using the latest in technology to get a deeper look into some pretty old artifacts, and that alone is pretty neat.

1893 World's Fair Exhibit at The Field Museum

“Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair”, I have to say, is pretty cool and a great addition to all of the other fantastic things you can discover at the Field. There are over 200 artifacts and specimens in this exhibit, from all corners of the fairgrounds. You can see a display of the different admission tickets the public purchased (the fair had special days much like we do at fairs today: Chicago Day, Manhattan Day, etc.):

1893 World's Fair Exhibit Tickets

1893 World's Fair Exhibit Washington Ticket

You can see taxidermied animals that were on display in the nature exhibit, like this lion:

1893 World's Fair Exhibit Lion

The lion really got me. I mean, I have visited The Field Museum a bunch of times (understatement) and I have seen lots and lots of things that have been preserved for much longer than anything from 1893 (like, um, SUE for example), but I was standing there staring at this lion, in awe that it was a part of the first Chicago World’s Fair. It blew me away.

*wipes tears*

Anyway, I loved the projections. There was a projection of a poster (or maybe a banner):

1893 World's Fair Exhibit Poster Projection

There was a projection of a souvenir map:

World's Columbian Exposition Souvenir Map

There were LOTS of projections of scenes from the fair. It was, and I know I keep using this word but it fits, FASCINATING.

1893 World's Fair Exhibit Projection

You and your kids (or whoever accompanies you to the exhibit) can even touch a few artifacts that came from the World’s Columbian Exposition, like this piece of Smoky Quartz:

Smoky Topaz

You can also check out some of the instruments that were played at the Javanese village on the Fair’s Midway, interactively. The instruments are on a digital screen…

1893 World's Fair Exhibit Interactive Instruments

…and you can drag them to the screen in front of you and then play, like so!

Cool, right?

The Field Museum actually has a BRAND-NEW app that you can download for iPhone or Android before your visit. The app contains tours and special features from different areas of the museum, and you can scan a special QR code for more in-depth videos and such. One important thing to note: cell coverage is spotty at the Field, so you’ll want to log into their free guest WiFi (“FieldMuseumWiFi”) when you arrive!

Field Museum App

You can download the app HERE.

You’ll need to purchase a Discovery Pass to view the 1893 World’s Fair Exhibit. The Discovery Pass includes admission to the Museum’s permanent collection too, of course. The cost of this pass is: $23 for adults, $16 for children (3-11), and $19 for students and seniors (65+). Chicago residents may receive an additional discount ($20 ticket price for adults) by showing ID, or proof of residency. Illinois teachers (pre-K through 12) and active military personnel receive free Basic Admission, which can be applied to any admission package. Please show proper identification to any Guest Relations Representative to take advantage of this benefit.

So, Chicagoans (and visitors to Chicago!)…when are you going?

I was selected for this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, however all content and opinions expressed here are my own.


  • Shannan

    Headed there later this week! I took a class in college that delved into the Colombian Exposition and I can hardly wait! Excited to check out the app. Thanks for the great sneak peek.

  • Kathy

    Grr!!! I am typing this on my phone and clicked away and lost my original comment.

    So, thank you for sharing! I can’t wait to go! After reading Devil in the White City a few years back I got more interested in Chicago History. Do you think a four year old and ten year old would like it?

    Recently I got to go on a private tour of the Rookery, including the Burnham Library, which was awesome! l should really blog about it soon. Thanks again for sharing!