Incredible Historical Photos From One of the World’s Best Museums

Dude who’s probably the zookeeper smoking a pipe and feeding two American black bears at the Lincoln Park Zoo. (1900)

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.

Security guard with plaster, wood, and metal moon model. (1898)

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.

Tinish, an orphaned baboon, gets a ride on a man named Allamayu’s shoulder during a 1926-1927 Africa expedition. (1927)

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.

Six unidentified carpenters, one tiny cat, and an unidentified male statue leaning against the column outside the Field Columbian Museum. (1914)

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.

Fighting African elephants being transported by rail from the Field Columbian museum to the new site in Grant Park. (1920)

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.

Museum director Frederick J.V. Skiff in his office. (1895)

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.

A 1920’s advertisement suggesting visitors take the Illinois Central railroad to the museum. (1929)

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.

Milton Copulos, plant model maker, trimming model leaves for the vanilla vine model in the Botany Plant Reproduction Laboratory. (1913)

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.

Hall 36, Paleontology: On the right is a megalodon jaw (“Hands Off”) with modern shark jaw for comparison. Other specimens include deer and a hadrosaur. (1895)

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.

Lt. Colonel John Patterson, who killed the Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo, shown here in Kenya (he’s the one with the dog). (1898)

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.

Late 19th century taxidermy: large mammals and cats in glass exhibit cases and in a diorama group at the Field Columbian Museum. (1899)
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