Normally, museums are our portals to the past. So when 100-year-old snapshots of a museum itself surface, the result is a double punch of amazing vintage awesomeness.
That’s why, when we learned that the Field Museum of Natural History was posting many of its historical photos online, we couldn’t wait to dive in.
The hundreds of photos include plates from the museum’s 1893 birth during the World’s Columbian Exposition (a.k.a. the Chicago World’s Fair), when artifacts and collections needed somewhere to live.
They take you inside the museum’s original home in Chicago’s Jackson Park (when it was informally known as the Field Columbian Museum), where you can see taxidermists and botanists preparing displays.
And there are photos showing how crews loaded those fragile display cases onto the rail cars that would freight them across the city in 1920 to their new home.
But that’s not all. Those yearning for the old-school collecting expeditions of yesteryear can find photos from trips to places like Africa, Peru, the South Pacific, and Oregon.
People, plants, and animals that lived more than a century ago are once again visible, including renowned taxidermist and sculptor Carl Akeley, and a little orphaned baboon who became a special member of an 1890′s Africa expedition.
Now, a more than a century later, the Field Museum is one of the most beloved of Chicago’s citizens. The behemoth institution houses more than 24 million specimens and draws millions of visitors each year.
Among other things, it has Sue, the world’s most complete T. rex fossil (she even has her own witty, meat-loving Twitter account), the Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo, and some of the largest fish, bird skin, and mollusk collections in the world.
We’ve pulled some of our favorite photos from the archive for you, but there are many more in the museum’s Flickr stream and Tumblr to stare at. Narwhals, hippos, sarcophagi, sunfish, totem poles? They’re all in there.