A little history about Field Museum

On June 2, 1894, the museum opened to the public in the Palace of Fine Arts Building in Jackson Park (which was rebuilt in the 1930s and now houses the Museum

#FieldMuseum of Natural History Exhibitions and events Educational programs Collections Trails, Virtual Exhibitions A comprehensive set of human cultural anthropology exhibits, including artifacts from ancient Egypt, the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Islands, and Tibet. Established in 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago with a gift from Marshall Field, from whom in 1905 it derived its present name. It was established to house the anthropological and biological collections of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. On Field’s death in 1906.

Our collection grew out of items on display in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in the “White City. The exposition delighted visitors with 65,000 exhibits filled with natural wonders and cultural artifacts, many of which later found a permanent home in Chicago at the newly created Field Columbian Museum. Our museum name still honors Marshall Field, who donated $1 million to make the collective dream of a permanent museum a reality. 

Field Museum Located on Chicago’s Iconic Lake Michigan shore, the Field Museum opened its current building to the public in 1921 but our story began years earlier.

Since opening the Museum in 1894, our collection has grown to nearly 40 million artifacts and specimens. The breadth of our mission has expanded, too. We continue to research the objects in our collections, as well as document previously unknown species, conserve ecosystems in our backyard and across the globe, educate budding scientists, invite cross-cultural conversation, and more all to ensure that our planet thrives for generations to come.

World’s Columbian Exposition

Chicago played host to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, organized to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in “the New World.” The six-month event drew 27 million people to the city.

A glittering showcase of art, architecture, technology, and global culture, the event introduced the world to the Ferris wheel, newly invented products such as Cream of Wheat, and multitudes of rare objects that would later enter the collections of a brand-new natural history museum in Chicago.


Chicago Tribune article by Professor Frederic Ward Putnam first suggested that a museum be formed as a result of the exposition—three years before the exposition even took place. 

But the most instrumental figure in making the dream of the museum a reality was Marshall Field, a local business magnate. Field was known to support any plan for increasing Chicago’s access to cultural and educational facilities, and the museum was no exception. 

Edward E. Ayer, who would later become the museum’s first president, called Field to solicit his support for the museum, and after some consideration, Field offered $1 million. Field’s contribution—plus contributions from other wealthy donors—ensured the success and permanence of a great museum in Chicago. Their donations helped purchase the first collections of what would soon become the Columbian Museum of Chicago. 

We are in this together

It takes hundreds of people working behind the scenes and with our visitors to operate a world-class museum.

  • From the designers who plan and build our exhibitions, to collections managers who prepare, catalog, and care for our specimens and artifacts…
  • From the staff who take care of the building, to educators ready to answer questions and help visitors explore the natural world up close…
  • From co-curators who work with Indigenous peoples to create inclusive exhibitions, to community organizers who build bridges with groups in our backyard and around the world…
  • From communicators who share our stories with the world, to tour guides and volunteers who make the Museum friendly and accessible… 

We all work together to welcome visitors through our doors and pursue our mission. Working toward a better world is a big job.

The state of Illinois approved the charter that officially created the Columbian Museum of Chicago which was quickly renamed the Field Columbian Museum to honor its first major benefactor. On June 2, 1894, the museum opened to the public in the Palace of Fine Arts Building in Jackson Park which was rebuilt in the 1930s and now houses the Museum of Science and Industry.

Health and safety

In accordance with the City of Chicago’s updated guidelines, the Field Museum no longer requires proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or masks for museum visitors. However, we strongly encourage all of our guests to wear masks while in the building.

Some exceptions may apply for museum events. If you have registered for an event, your event organizer will communicate any specific requirements

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