Museum of Science and Industry brings down the big top on once-beloved circus exhibit

As the old show leaves, we couldn’t help but take a moment to wave farewell, and remind ourselves that change is constant — even in museums.

SHARE Museum of Science and Industry brings down the big top on once-beloved circus exhibit
One of Museum of Science and Industry circus dioramas. The circus exhibit, in one form or another, has been on display since the early 1970s. It’s being auctioned later this month to make way for a new exhibit.

One of the Museum of Science and Industry’s circus dioramas. The circus exhibit, in one form or another, has been on display since the early 1970s and now will be auctioned off to make way for a new exhibit.

Heidi Peters/Museum of Science and Industry

The circus exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry — with its small-scale models and dioramas — was an anachronism in a place that showcased technology.

Still, it was fun to see, particularly when it was much larger and originally sat in the MSI’s east rotunda in the years following its 1973 installation.

Visitors and school groups drawn to the museum to see the Apollo 8 space capsule or the U-505 submarine could also experience life under the big top, rendered in miniature.

But the circus exhibit’s days at the MSI have ended, with the show packed up and its pieces headed for auction this week.

Editorials bug

Editorials

As the old show leaves, we couldn’t help but take a moment to wave farewell, and remind ourselves that change is constant — even in museums.

For instance, those of a certain age might likely remember the MSI’s popular Telefun Town, an exhibit dedicated to telephone communication and sponsored by Illinois Bell.

By the 1960s, the “town” included a Picturephone, a futuristic device that enabled users to see, as well as hear, the person on the other end of line.

Telefun Town is long gone now. And you might be reading this editorial on the technologically advanced — and far smaller — descendant of the Picturephone, the smart phone.

“We want to always be relevant to our audience,” said Kathleen McCarthy, the museum’s director of collections and head curator. “Science and technology is a field that really advances quickly. So this content is nostalgic. While really enjoyable and entertaining, we just thought we needed the space to introduce new content.”

McCarthy is right, of course. And even real circuses aren’t the beloved events they once were, as society becomes more enlightened about the way circus animals are often treated.

The gavel will fall on the items Saturday, courtesy of Potter & Potter Auctions at potterauctions.com.

May the winning bidder give the exhibit a good new home.

The Sun-Times welcomes letters to the editor and op-eds. See our guidelines.

The Latest
Korchinski made some smart decisions in his 19:02 of ice time, but the Hawks lost to the Blues 4-1.
The Sox’ losing streak reaches seven after a loss to the Twins.
The way in which the mayor and CPS are pushing forward with this current, controversial and problematic proposal is troubling. There has not been meaningful community engagement with open, public meetings and true dialogue
The 19th century Victorian house will lose its status as the ‘candy house’ but will remain a testament to another era of Chicago.