Two “New” Small Chicago Musems

Well a museum that has already been open for nine years isn’t exactly a new museum, but for a native anything that I didn’t visit on a YMCA field trip as a child, I classify as new.  I left Chicago for other parts during the 1980’s but have visited pretty much every year since.  Of course, visits with children tend to usually include lots of family events and visits to those tried and true museums I visited as a child.  But life moves on and since the kids are grown, we decided that the time has come for new explorations.

Unlike the lucky folks who live north, when we South Siders visit the central city it always requires planning.  Driving has never been an option. Even less so now that every Chicago parking spot requires an investment. Traveling downtown by public transportation usually means caging a ride from a willing family member or a long, tedious bus ride.

Riding the El in Chicago
Riding the El in Chicago

On this last visit when the weather was looking good, we caught a ride to the Orange Line and set out for the north loop. The Driehaus museum and the  recently opened American Writers Museum  are less than a mile apart and  we thought would be a great way to spend a day in the city.

We started at the Writers museum.  The lobby is lovely (despite snide comments in many reviews), with nifty elevator doors and a great looking guard desk. Ordinary, perhaps, when built, but now unique.

Museum Lobby

The American Writers Museum requires a slow ambling view, or you may miss the point here.

As with many small museums, one needs to look up, down and all around to truly appreciate the setting, as designers must work within a small space.  The museum entry has a ceiling covered in books and all walls display important info.

Museum Entrance
Look up at the Entry Canopy

The main hallway has authors in a chronologically ordered timeline.  Walk too quickly and you will miss moving the informational blocks to study different aspects of the writers. Clearly many of the authors will be known. I found it to be great, that I had somehow missed knowing about a few of these authors.  Flip the blocks and find out more or take a photo for future research. Each author has an in-depth discussion of why they were significant. I just started reading a book by Francis Parkman, one of America’s first travel writers.

Check out the word waterfall!  This, on the surface, looks to be simple phrases lighting up. A look through the camera lens reveals a 3D multimedia sculpture.

Book Scroll
Jack Kerouac’s Scroll of On the Road

A special exhibition of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road included the original scroll. I’m a fan, but I did not realize that one of my favorite books was written in this fashion.  Very cool!

After a lunch at Protein and Kitchen Bar, a favorite, we set out for our next museum

A pleasant walk across the now sparking Chicago River (a shock to those of us with long memories) lies the Driehaus Museum.  This museum, housed in the former Gilded Age home of banker Samuel Mayo Nickerson had spent most of the twentieth century as headquarters for the American College of Surgeons. Philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus purchased the building in 2003. After a five years restoration,  the building now appears as it did in the 1800s.

Dramatic Entrance to the Driehaus Museum

The building houses surviving furnishings paired with elegant, historically appropriate pieces from the Driehaus Foundation  Collection of Fine and Decorative Arts. The first floor houses the collection and the second floor a rotating gallery.

Posters at a Special Exhibition

On this visit the gallery exhibition, an Art-Deco poster collection, featured five different artists.  The guides in the museum were incredibly helpful, offering many additional insights.

They have an amazing collection at the museum as the tradition of the time amongst the wealthy was to employ as many different crafts people to decorate and buy as many things as they could afford in order to impress their peers.  These buildings would have been completely packed with paintings and other artwork.

We certainly enjoyed our visit to these two “new” museums and look forward to finding more of these small gems.

I took these photos with an Olympus Tough as I was traveling light this trip.

Tiffany Lamp
The museum Houses an Impressive Tiffany Collection

Chicago’s Field Museum Historical Perspective


Chicago Field Museum
Chicago Field Museum

We changed our flight home to avoid Hurricane Hermine.  This turned out to be unnecessary as the storm missed us. Today we spent the day at the Field Museum.


First stop was the Terracotta Warriors. The Terracotta Warriors and horses, date back to 221 BCE. These life-sized clay sculptures were buried with the first emperor of China to protect him in his afterlife. The eight figures plus artifacts are samples from a much larger Chinese collection of at least 7000 warriors. Much of that has not been excavated. I had seen these in 1980, the last time they were at the museum.

Terracotta Warriors
Terracotta Warriors


Terracotta Warriors
Warriors in China
Warrior Exhibition
Warrior Exhibition


The museum dates back to the early 1920s.  I was curious what besides the structure dated back to the early days of the museum.


The first thing that I found was  this amazing little diorama of an idyllic Indian Village.

Native Village
Early museum diorama

Original Exhibit



These bronzes are from the 1920s

Bronzes at the Field Museum


These murals, created between 1926 and 1930, provided backgrounds for decades of exhibitions.

Museum mural

Museum Mural
Museum Mural
Did you know?


The building has held up well and sits on the lake with sweeping views of the city and the lake through the windows and off the verandas.

Scenic Doors
Scenic Doors
Fabulous Staircase
Fabulous Staircase









We head back home today. Nasty weather ahead with a tropical depression. We’ve shoehorned a lot of touristing between visits with family.  Back in the 60s and 70s when I was growing up in Chicago the Gold Coast Cost Art Fair on the near-north side was the only art fair in the city. Bookshops weren’t all that common.  Street fairs were unheard of.  Now-a-days, Chicago has art and street fairs every weekend.  Sometimes more than one. And..bookshops continue to thrive. Chicago is a photographers’ fantasy world with all kinds of cool and interesting stuff to photograph.


Chicago Building   Hot Dog!   The Bucktown Art Fair on the North Side, and the Port Clinton Fair in Highland Park were great places to shop! Who knew there were two-story food trucks?

Bucktown Art Fair Port Clinton Art Fair

As always we visited our favorite book stores: Half-Price, Book Table and Open Book Bookshop.

Open Book Bookstore

We’ll be back again before the snow starts to fly.

Art Institute of Chicago


Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago

On my last trip to Chicago, my oldest daughter and I visited the Art Institute. This trip my husband visited. I hadn’t been to the museum in years. The attraction was an exhibition of my favorite kind of artwork: art from the 1930s.  The exhibition, titled, America After the Fall, will close on September 28th, so there is still time to see it before it ends.

America After the Fall
America After the Fall



If you haven’t been for a while take some time to relax in the outdoor Museum Café, as we did, and listen to music in the afternoon.

Museum Cafe
Museum Cafe


Ask people the purpose of travel.  As often as not, they will tell you they are going home.  Defining “home” is another blog post.  Be-that-as-it-may, I left Florida’s oppressive August heat to visit family and friends in Chicago. Many people will pay to experience life with locals in Chicago but are unlikely to visit the South Side. I’m lucky, I can do that from my father-in-law’s spare room.  Hot dog and taco stands abound-none to ever be reviewed by Chicago Magazine. You will likely not hear about Durbin’s Taco Tuesday, with its signature bingo extravaganza. Yoo-hoo!! I broke a record by winning two games in a row.