Under the South Portico of the Musem of Science and Industry
where one usually doesn’t get to hang out.

A reader’s comment on my post about Chicago Art Deco at the Powhatan on how fun it is to peek behind the scenes reminded me that I still have pictures to share from Member Open House at the Museum of Science and Industry in July. We live a few blocks from the museum, in fact our kids consider it part of their back yard, meaning they’d know their way around it blindfolded, so getting to see otherwise unseen parts of the museum is especially enticing to us.

Standing under the normally locked entrance at the South Portico, we had this view looking over the back steps, the terrace, the lagoon and museum members enjoying the ice cream social that’s part of Member Open House.

The MSI holds this event every summer. This was the second time we could attend. The evening is short, and so we focused on exploring only one of the many parts of the museum that are usually not open. This year we decided to go see the corporate offices, and find out where they do all the work of planning exhibits, raising funds, marketing their efforts, and just generally keeping that venerable institution running. Where, we wondered, were those offices hidden? There is no obvious office annex or wing. Turns out the offices are aligned along this infinite hallway that winds itself along the outline of the museum, one story up from the official second floor. It was fun to discover the “secret” elevator and stairway that provide access.

I, of course, fell in love with these art deco lamps in the hallway. What an elegant place to work!

In some instances it is also a rather cramped place to work. After all, the building dates back to 1893 and offices were not exactly planned for. And I wonder whether the stone grilles in front of the windows are endearing when you look at them every day, or if they make you feel as if you were in a prison.

View from the Museum’s President’s desk out over the Smart Home exhibit outdoors. If you look closely, you can see the blue of Lake Michigan beyond the trees in the background. Not a bad view even if it’s through lattice work.
View from the hallway outside of the president’s office down into the museum.
At the opposite end of the museum from the president’s office (a walk that seemed to go on for ever!), the same giant arched window with the generous lattice work can be found in the marketing offices.
Traces of the recent Dr. Suess exhibit in the marketing office.
In the hallway, posters from the 1930s. (The museum opened in 1933.)
The exhibit planning office – getting a glimpse at how an exhibit starts to take shape was my favorite part of Open House. Plus I love bikes and nudged one of the planners who was present to have at least one of those oldies in their collection available for a tryout in the exhibit. Wouldn’t that be cool to ride around the museum on one of those giant wheels? Not happening, I know, but still.