The Art Institute of Chicago marked its 125th anniversary on Saturday by re-creating a Dec. 8, 1893, photo showing the museum welcome its first swell of patrons.
The 19th century image depicts a large crowd standing at the cobblestone intersection of Michigan and Adams, and on the steps of the Institute’s western facade.
Grace Sheehan of the Art Institute’s membership team said the museum wanted to be “as exact as possible” in their 21st century reproduction, and more than 400 Chicagoans braved a chilly Saturday morning in the Loop to do just that.
Well, mostly exact — except for the individuals in the original photo seen climbing and hanging from street lamps, Sheehan conceded.
Museum workers took a series of test photos over the summer in anticipation of the re-creation, and with a strong security team guiding the hundreds of photo volunteers, Sheehan said their 2018 photo turned out nearly perfect.
“It was pretty incredible to see,” Sheehan said. “We were hoping for a few hundred people, but as word spread, we could begin to see the energy and people getting excited.”
Kati Murphy, the Art Institute’s public affairs chief, said the crowd included people of all ages, including museum staffers, members, art enthusiasts as well as more than a few curious passersby.
Some even showed up wearing 19th century garb and followed up the photo shoot with a stroll through the museum galleries in their costumes, Sheehan said.
In addition to the photo, the Art Institute had special anniversary programming on Saturday, including history lectures and guided tours.
Murphy said the picture and its re-creation spoke to what the Art Institute means to the city.
“It’s just such a cool photo with those hundreds of people standing in front of the museum,” she said. “It captures how connected we are to the city of Chicago . . . and reflects the position we’re in with the city. We’re for all the people of the city.”