One of the many family traditions we weren't able to perform this year was visiting the Field Museum for Member's Night. This event is normally held in May over two nights (usually Thursday and Friday) and allows members to see some of the research being done at the museum and learn how new exhibits are designed. Fortunately, the Field Museum came up with a new way to participate this year: virtually over Zoom. They set up three sessions last week, each with several short presentations on different topics. I attended all of them, though I didn't watch every presentation. (My husband had to work during the presentations. I did share the Zoom link with my son, though I don't know if he watched any of the sessions on his own.) Here are a few of the presentation topics:
Totem poles (cleaning and imaging)
Hats and headgear (ancient hats mostly from Asia)
Green River fossils (see below)
Gems (Victorian household items made from gems; we got to guess what they were used for)
Artifacts from Kish, one of the oldest urban areas
Fossil prep (we got to see two of staff members actually doing this at their homes)
Fish specimens (we saw some of those at Dozing with the Dinos in March)
Dinosaurs (of course!)--the oversize collection
Some of the presentations I didn't get to see involved birds, moccasins, and mummies. There were a couple of presentations from Thursday night that aren't coming to mind at the moment.
The presentation I enjoyed the most was the Green River fossil presentation, which focused on ancient bird fossils. They showed a very nice fossil of a 155-million-year-old bird with impressions of feathers visible. Dr. O'Connor, Associate Curator of Reptile Fossils, explained that contrary to what you might expect, they found evidence of soft tissue preservation in these fossils. By demineralizing and staining a sample from another ancient bird fossil, they were able to find evidence of ovarian tissue in the fossil. Most birds have only one ovary (probably an adaption for flight), so this work showed that the ovary reduction happened very early in bird evolution. I thought that was fascinating work that could change how other fossils are studied, which would allow us to learn more about prehistoric life.
We did visit the Field Museum when they reopened in July, but unfortunately, the Chicago museums had to close down again last week. It was good to reconnect with The Field again, even if it was just virtually. Hopefully next year the whole family can attend a Members' Night in person. In the meantime, please support your local museum(s)!