Everyone knows about the big museums located in Chicago: the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Adler Planetarium, the Chicago History Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago. These are all wonderful museums, but it can be just as rewarding going to some lesser known places, where the crowds aren’t so thick and the admissions prices aren’t so high. Follow this list for an interesting dose of history, culture, and art:
The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago
1155 E 58th St, Chicago, IL 60637
Drive south to Hyde Park, where you will find the enchanting Oriental Institute on the University of Chicago’s gothic campus. The Oriental Institute’s collection of objects from the ancient Near East is truly world-class and allows visitors to experience the ancient regions of Anatolia, Assyria, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Syria.
Many of the objects come from the archaeological digs the University conducted in the early twentieth-century. Particular highlights include the stone reliefs from Assyrian king Sargon II’s throne room, the mummy of Meresamun, a colossal statue of Tutankhamen, the foundation slab of Persian king Xerxes, and the colorful “striding lion” painted on bricks that once lined the streets of Babylon.
Does Breasted Hall look familiar? It’s where Indiana Jones gave his lectures in the movies. Check out the museum store, which sells hard to find educational materials and unique gifts.
Evanston History Center in the historic Charles Gates Dawes House
225 Greenwood Street
Evanston, IL 60201
Admission: Tours are $5 a person, minimum five people.
The Evanston History Center is housed in the late-nineteenth century French chateaux style mansion on the lakefront that was once home to Charles Gates Dawes, the 30th Vice President of the United States and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The History Center maintains the mansion and has decorated the home in a historically accurate fashion.
The rooms are furnished as they would have been lived in by Dawes and his family- the elegant dining room is set for a dinner party that seems about to begin. Don’t miss the English Renaissance Revival style great hall with its massive stone fireplace and the Louis XVI-style library complete with books that Dawes himself owned. Downstairs you will find an extensive archival collection, and upstairs are interesting exhibits on the area’s history.
The Richard H. Driehaus Museum
40 East Erie Street, Chicago, IL, 60611
Admission: $20 Adult
$12.50 Senior (65+)
$10 Student with valid I.D.
$10 Youth (6-12 years)
Children five years and younger are free.
In 1879, Chicago banker Samuel Mayo Nickerson commissioned a home that would be a testament to his wealth and taste. Now, you can see his dream realized in this River North mansion has been elegantly restored to its Gilded Age splendor and furnished with period-appropriate objects from the Driehaus Collection of Fine and Decorative Arts.
Of special note are the Louis Comfort Tiffany glass pieces. Entering this mansion is like entering another world. The attention to detail in every room is remarkable, and the exotic influences are stunning. Case in point: the Smoking Room features Moorish motifs and Islamic styles.