Ideas Week

October 21, 2014 at 7:44 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Chicago hosted its 4th Annual Ideas Week last week and I was kinda, sorta involved. Chicago Ideas Week is a bit hard to describe but it’s basically a series of week-long events where hundreds of people are brought together to connect and inspire each over a huge variety of topics. There were lectures and talks about everything from politics to beer-making and there was literally something for everyone. The talks were at all times of the day and night and held all over the city and since our firm donated to the event, we were given an allotment of tickets to dole out. One of my bosses was in charge of that so I was in turn in charge of the ticket allocation. The process was a bit of a pain in the ass at first but I got the hang of it and was rewarded with a few tickets myself!

A bright idea!

Last Monday, I went to a talk about Explorers from around the world and got to listen to a pilot named Amelia Earhart (no relation to the original, though she did inspire this woman to fly around the planet), a guy who has walked the entire length of the Nile, an ecologist who goes cave-diving, a journalist who has covered some of the most dangerous places in the world and last but certainly not least, Captain James Lovell (the astronaut who Tom Hanks portrayed in Apollo 13). Yeah, the talks were awesome. I found Amelia Earhart to be a little obnoxious (she used to be a weather girl for some local station and so she had that bubbly, plasticy type of personality that makes you want to mess up her perfectly coiffed hair and smear her immaculate make-up…or maybe that was just me) but the others were all extremely fascinating. James Lovell was just plain awe-inspiring and listening to him talk about how Apollo 13 was “probably his most difficult mission” really put into perspective any problems we face down here on earth. The whole event was inspiring and left me wanting to go out and traipse around the world but alas, I had to go to work the next day. I learned a lot though and it was a very interesting way to spend a Monday night.

The next talk I went to was on Saturday evening and Scott got to join me for that one. It was all about the power of creativity and how people take such different paths in order to make the most of their own creativity. We heard from a pair of Chicago entrepreneurs who started a business that sells shoes with the graffiti artwork of artists from all around the world, along with an architect with his own T.V. show, a ventriloquist named Terry Fator who won America’s Got Talent, a chef scientist, the jazz musician T.S. Monk and actress Joan Cusack. It was quite an eclectic group of talent and they all basically talked about their own individual paths of creativity which led them to the success they enjoy today. Joan was the last speaker of the night and she’s a bizarre, funny and original personality who gave us a lot of laughs. Apparently she also owns a store here in the city that sells greeting cards and has featured things from very expensive artwork, a giant beach ball, small toy cars and a live pig. Like I said, bizarre and eclectic.

All of the talks were entertaining though and it was cool to see how it all came together. Who knows – maybe one day I’ll be leading a talk like this myself! Though I may need to acquire a pig first.

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Save the Serengeti

March 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

On Saturday, I attended a lecture at the Field Museum by Bruce Patterson, curator of the Hall of Mammals.  He spoke of the Serengeti, which is a national park and world heritage site in Tanzania, Africa.  The Serengeti hosts the world’s largest annual mammal migration, which is considered one of the world’s top natural travel wonders.  The migration is vital to the ecosystems and ecotourism of the area and is necessary to ensure that these species continue to procreate and flourish.  Unfortunately, the Tanzanian government is trying to build a highway right through the area where the migration takes place.

The Map

As you can see, this map shows migration patterns and the highway route proposed by the government.  Then there’s a proposed alternate route that would not only save the migration but also save space and money (it’s roughly 40 miles shorter) for the overall highway project.  Over 300 scientists from around the world are calling for the government in Tanzania to adopt the alternate route instead of the planned one.  Unfortunately, sometimes dealing with leaders of other countries isn’t ever easy, especially when it comes to the land and resources in their country.  Scientists and conservationists are continuously working to preserve large areas that feature natural habitats and the Serengeti is just about the largest preserved area on the planet.  When this wildlife sanctuary goes, what else will we have to fight for?

So yeah, there’s my environmentalist rant for the day.  It’s tough because there’s not much we can do, other than to be aware of what’s going on.  We could write letters to the Tanzanian government but in a situation like this, that could actually cause more harm than good (politics get tricky when you have an undereducated, stubborn man in power who doesn’t want to be told what to do with his country, especially not by some young white girl in the States).

Knowledge is power though, so at least now you know.

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Horsing Around

February 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

As I’ve mentioned, much of my weekend time lately has been spent at the Field Museum doing various volunteer activities.  Last weekend was no different and my happy butt was sitting in a lecture hall at 9am on Saturday morning.  Which meant I woke up around 7:15.  If you know me, you know I like my weekend sleep so I’m obviously pretty committed.  And while it wasn’t exactly easy to get my body out of bed that early, in the end it was totally worth it.

The 7 hour lecture Sunday was all about the new exhibit that opened this week, The Horse.  I learned about the physiology, evolution, breeding and domestication of horses, as well as how they and humans have interacted over the years.  I won’t lie, I geeked out over a lot of it because I just thought it was so damn cool to be a part of.  I’m not even a huge horse lover (I’ve been thrown more than once and have accepted that I’m scared of riding them.  They’re big animals and they can sense my fear, so my feet are better left on the ground) but I do like to learn so it all worked out.  A few random facts for you:

  • The average horse produces about 50 pounds of manure every single day

    A sculpture made of driftwood at the end of the exhibit - please excuse the crappy phone quality, it looks much better in person

  • The only truly wild horses that still exist are in Mongolia
  • Horses evolved from having three toes to one hoof
  • The Sakha people in Siberia drink horse milk during solstice
  • Horses can be milked
  • Horses have been hunted by humans
  • The height of a horse is measured in hands – each hand is about 4 inches (the length of pinky to thumb when your hand is horizontal)
  • Horses have therapeutic purposes (I already knew this from a program I was involved in during college with at-risk kids and horses but didn’t realize just how often they’re utilized for such purposes)
  • People mount on the left because it was easier to maneuver swords back in the day

There was a lot more, trust me.

After the lecture, we were allowed to tour the actual exhibit.  That was especially cool since it wasn’t yet open to the public.  In fact, after I walked behind the black curtain a couple of girls my age followed me and some guard had to tell them to leave.  Yup, I kind of felt like a bad ass.  The exhibit featured dioramas of the evolution of horses, replicas of ancient cave paintings featuring them and displays of how horses have been utilized by humans through the ages.  They also discuss things like The Kentucky Derby (being a near-Louisvillian myself, this was extra cool).

This was the first traveling exhibit that’s come to the Field since I’ve been a docent and apparently every time a new one arrives there’s a training session much like the one I attended.  The next one is on Whales and after that…well, I think I have to keep that one a secret for now but it’s going to be awesome.  And yes, I’ll probably geek out over those too.  At this point, you should expect nothing less.

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Back to School

August 31, 2010 at 1:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Look Ma!

I got to revert back to being a student last weekend, and even though it was only for two days, it was pretty awesome.

This is a description of the class I took:

And here's the building I took it in

This two-day course presents an in-depth study of the components that make a successful museum exhibition, whether permanent or temporary.  Topics covered will include:  concept, research, conversation, publications, design, lighting, budget, loans, advertising, sponsorship, education and visitor satisfaction.  Speakers representing a range of specialists in the field will provide commentary.  This course may be taken as a supplement to Northwestern University’s Museum Studies Certificate Program or as a stand-alone experience for museum professionals and those who are interested in furthering their knowledge of the exhibit process.

Yes, it was awesome.  It was even more awesome because it was on the downtown campus and so not only did I get to miss out on a day of work but I got to eat my lunch right by the lake as I tried to figure out if I know anyone who will take me out on a boat.

Anyway, classes Friday started with a bang.  Our class consisted of about 10 other ladies and myself; most of the others had some sort of profession dealing with museums, while a few were like me and hoping to go that route.  I was by far the youngest but they were all really nice and didn’t throw me out because I was born in a different decade.  Our first

Nice, huh?

speaker was probably my favorite, as it was a woman who works on temporary exhibits at The Field Museum.  She spoke for a while and I was completely captivated.  She pretty much has my dream job and I’ve been working on an email to her to ask for further advise.  After the lecture, we took a walk and toured The McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum.  Don’t know what that is?  Yeah, neither did we (and it worked to highlight a point about getting your museum’s name out to the public).  I actually walked right by it about four times before figuring out how to get in.

The Bridgehouse Museum is located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, so thousands (if not more) of people walk by it every day.  You have to enter via the Riverwalk so it’s kind of tucked away, but for $4 a ticket it’s more than worth it.  The museum starts below ground and you can walk out and see all of the massive gears that raise the Chicago River bridge, which is pretty nifty.  The history of the Chicago River is told on the next few floors and by the time you get to the top you’re treated to a pretty sweet view.

After our field trip, we worked on a project designing the floor plan and layout of a local history museum and then we listened to our professor lecture a bit more.  She put together a whole exhibit on Victorian dresses for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC a few years ago so we were treated to the ins and outs of that, and we also heard about the problems and issues she faced while putting it all together.  On Saturday we had a few more guest speakers and they talked about everything from funding an exhibit to the different kinds of lighting options available.  We watched a few short videos and had a group discussion on the importance of being honest in an exhibit as well as what the main purpose of museums should be and what exactly they owe to the public.

I enjoyed it all.

I’m also seriously considering taking three 10-week courses to get a certificate in Museum Studies.  Unfortunately, I don’t think my work schedule will allow me to do this (they pitch a fit when I try to leave five minutes early so I can catch the express train which saves me 40 minutes on my commute).  In fact, I just got a written reprimand for going 15 minutes over on my last pay period, because I was dealing with clients one day and unable to get away for a full hour lunch.  Did I mention I wouldn’t mind finding another job?  One that allows me to actually work downtown and get to a once a week course in time to take it?  That would be nice.

One day, ladies and gents…one day.


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