The Field Museum is putting its scientists in the spotlight.
The Grainger Science Hub, a new exhibit opening Friday, will give 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 include the 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 projected on 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 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,” reassures Alison Engel, coordinator of Gallery Learning Experiences for the Grainger Science Hub. According to Engel, the real 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.
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.