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Engaging Exhibitions

During field trips, teachers and chaperones lead their groups on self-guided experiences through the Museum’s exhibitions.

We encourage groups to explore our galleries at their own pace and stop at student-friendly activities along the way.

The Exelon Wing

crossroadsChicago: Crossroads of America

Explore Chicago’s changing economy, challenging crises, diverse neighborhoods, groundbreaking innovations, and lively cultural scene in six galleries.

> Learn more about Crossroads and preview exhibition highlights

KPMG and Paul and Katherine Snyder Community Gallery

VivianMaierVivian Maier's Chicago

Continuing through summer 2014

For decades, Vivian Maier worked as a nanny for North Shore families. Loved by the children she cared for, she nonetheless kept a secret—she was a talented photographer. Only after her death did her work become well known. In this exhibition, discover her diverse photographs, which captured Chicago’s streets in unique ways.

> Learn more about Vivian Maier's Chicago

Costume and Textile Gallery

whitecitySiam: The Queen and the White City

This year marks the 120th anniversary of Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition, an event that drew exhibits and visitors from around the world. This exhibition honors Queen Savang Vadana for her contributions in organizing her country’s displays for the fair’s Woman’s Building. As chair of the Board of Lady Managers, Chicagoan Bertha Honoré Palmer received an exquisite album from the Queen, now part of this charming exhibition that also features textiles, photographs, and other items.

Skyline Gallery, Bessie Green-Field Warshawsky Gallery,and Mazza Foundation Gallery

inspiringbeautyInspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair

Open through May 11, 2014

Relive the experience of the Ebony Fashion Fair. Explore its fifty-year history, and discover how Eunice Johnson overcame adversity to bring high couture fashion to African American communities, while raising millions of dollars for charities along the way. More than sixty garments help tell the story of this world-renowned fashion show and its redefinition of American beauty.

Konen Family Children's Gallery

sensingchicagoSensing Chicago

Did you know that history is beautiful, noisy, rough, stinky, and delicious? In this gallery, students can use their five senses to:

  • Ride a high-wheel bicycle.
  • Hear the Great Chicago Fire.
  • Catch a fly ball at Old Comiskey Park.
  • Smell the city's past.
  • Be a Chicago-style hot dog.

Recommended for grades 3 and 4. Due to the popularity of this gallery, special reservations for a 30 minute time slot are required. Please indicate your interest on the field trip reservation form.

Tawani Foundation Diorama Hall

dioramasImagining Chicago: The Dioramas

Visit our beloved dioramas to experience the first 100 years of Chicago’s history. Hands-on activities challenge students to look closely at the scenes, find specific details, and put history into a larger context.



The Naphtali ben Yakov Pritzker American History Wing

facingfreedomFacing Freedom

Inspired by the idea that the history of the Unites States has been shaped by conflicts over what it means to be free, the new permanent exhibition Facing Freedom, designed especially for middle and high school students, uses images, artifacts, and interactivity to explore familiar and not-so-familiar stories from the nation’s past. From a Civil War battle and the formation of labor unions to Japanese internment and a stand-off over American-Indian rights, the exhibition highlights some of the ways Americans have struggled to define the meaning of freedom.

Recommended for middle and high school students.

Sanger P. Robinson Gallery


Lincoln’s Chicago

Catch a glimpse of the city Lincoln knew through portraits of his contemporaries and lithographic view of 1860s Chicago.

Abraham Lincoln

This exhibition highlights Lincoln’s election in 1860, his leadership during the Civil War, and his tragic assassination in a series of dramatic windows and audio narration.

Kovler Family Lobby

unexpectedchicagoUnexpected Chicago

What's the most surprising thing about a collection made up of millions of artifacts? A single artifact! This world-class collection holds the second largest costume collection in the world including clothing and accessories as well as thousands of linear feet of archives and manuscripts that make up the equivalent of forty-nine football fields or twelve Willis Towers. Unexpected Chicago is a way to reveal unexpected treasures of Chicago history a single artifact at a time.

> Learn more about Unexpected Chicago

Unexpected Chicago is supported by a gift from The Jacob and Rosaline Cohn Foundation.


This series of installations promotes exploration throughout the Museum!

  • Imagine riding low and slow in our custom-made, tricked-out 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
  • Learn about Abraham Lincoln and see his deathbed.
  • Play Street Smarts, a game that challenges students to match events with the intersections where they took place.
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