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Field Museum’s Grainger Science Hub features multiple kiosks with rotating displays staffed daily with educators and scientists. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Field Museum visitors, scientists to interact in new exhibit

SHARE Field Museum visitors, scientists to interact in new exhibit
SHARE Field Museum visitors, scientists to interact in new exhibit

The Field Museum is putting its scientists in the spotlight.

The Grainger Science Hub, a new exhibit opening Friday, willgive visitors a chance to interact with the museum’s team of scientists and researchers.

The interactive learning space features two new exhibits every three months, staffed by presenters who will discuss specimens and take questions from patrons. The first two displays includethe Jack Hills Conglomerate, a geological specimen containing some of the oldest minerals on earth, and a collection of specimens chosen to highlight recent DNA discoveries at the Field.

Susan Golland, exhibition developer for the Grainger Science Hub, said interacting with scientists is one of the best parts of her job.

“They can take a rock, a dead crow, things that are not particularly interesting on their own and you leave being fascinated,” Golland said. “I just get so excited and that’s what we want people to feel when they leave.”

Every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., scientists will conduct Skype lectures projectedon a large screen in the Science Hub’s main room. A camera will allow participants at the exhibit to interact with lecturers.The goal is to give museum goers a taste of the often fascinating behind-the-scenes work that goes into building exhibits.

Like flesh-eating beetles.

Dermestid beetles help by cleaning skeletons before they are displayed to the public at the Field Museum. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Dermestid beetles help by cleaning skeletons before they are displayed to the public at the Field Museum. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Dermestid beetles are a crucial part of the museum’s “staff.” The beetles eat flesh and tissue residue, making them perfect for cleaning skulls and bones.

So what happens in the case of an accidental escape?

“They only eat dead things,” reassuresAlison Engel, coordinator of Gallery Learning Experiences for the Grainger Science Hub. According to Engel, thereal risk in a flesh-eating beetle breakout is to the rest of the museum’s collection.

The Science Hub’s other main benefit is a chance to show off that collection.

According to Katie Pittman, also a coordinator for Gallery Learning Experiences, the museum has over 30,000 specimens, but only a few ever get displayed.

“Only about 1 percent is available to the public,” Pittman said.

Rita and Brian Nodder listen to one of Field Museum’s educators at one of multiple kiosks that were created for the Grainger Science Hub.” | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Rita and Brian Nodder listen to one of Field Museum’s educators at one of multiple kiosks that were created for the Grainger Science Hub.” | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Focusing the exhibit on scientists and their work gives visitors a peak into the museum’s collection, but Golland says wrestling specimens out of scientists’ hands can still be a challenge.

“We wanted to display a piece of the moon,” Golland said, “but they were like ‘We need to work on that. Would you like a piece of Saturn instead?’ ”

The Grainger Science Hub will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays and is accessible to visitors with general admission tickets.

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