In these troubled times, it’s nice to hear good news about this ripple in the warm waters of Shedd Aquarium.
The Shedd this week announced plans for an eight-year, $ 500 million transformation that promises substantial new exhibits, research capabilities for the 92-year-old lakeside museum, as well as a renovation and refresh. of its interiors and galleries.
“We have thousands of species in these historic galleries and we exalt their biology, giving them larger habitats to swim in and making the experience more participatory, so it’s really a revitalization of their habitats and the how we bring them to the public, ”said Dr. Bridget C. Coughlin, President and CEO of the aquarium on Monday.
We Chicagoans assess the general well-being of the city by looking at crime statistics, economic activity, the effects of the pandemic, or the level of awkwardness emerging from City Hall – and these are undoubtedly important indicators, but they are also mercurial. That they rise and fall over the years is part of their nature.
But when our museums and cultural institutions double their investments here – especially now – it reminds us that this troubled city still has a lot of value and worth.
Renovation to mark Shedd’s 100th anniversary
The Shedd’s half-billion-dollar effort, known as the Centennial Pledge, aims to upgrade the aquarium for its 100th anniversary in 2030.
Work on the interior of the Shedd will begin later this year and will continue until 2026. A second phase of work will then follow.
As part of the campaign, the Shedd said it will also increase its programming and offerings for Chicago public school students.
This is a key improvement, given the relative paucity of science taught in many of the city’s public schools. Given the Shedd’s stature as a research and educational institution, it’s good to see that the aquarium is poised to fill this gap even further.
Officials said visitors to the facility will see more interactive and immersive exhibits, including a new tunnel connecting the oceanarium. This tunnel will feature a 190,000-gallon, 35-foot-long glassed-in habitat surrounding visitors and making them feel like they are walking under the sea.
“You’ll feel like you’re diving without a bottle, and instead of seeing the animals in one place, you’ll see them from all directions around you,” Coughlin said.
The six historic galleries of the original building will be restored, along with their exhibits. The designers will also be putting back the windows that once allowed views of the lake and the skyline.
There are also plans to renovate the popular 90,000 gallon aquarium Caribbean reef exhibition, which opened in 1971, but Shedd officials were silent on details.
An indicator of better days to come?
The Shedd opened in 1930 during the most difficult time for the city and the country: the onset of the Great Depression.
But the aquarium and its neighbor, the Adler Planetarium, which also opened in the grim 1930s, were investments in Chicago and a harbinger of better days.
And the Adler is shining again after replacing its weathered copper roof last year. The building’s dome shimmers like shiny gold – though it will develop a darker patina over time – and serves as a welcoming beacon on the museum’s campus and another example of a great Chicago cultural institution digging deep. .
In Hyde Park, the Museum of Science and Industry does the same, completing the final parts of an exterior restoration and renovation of their iconic Palace of Fine Arts, which dates back to the Colombian Exposition of 1893. .
The plans come – or move forward – at a time not too far from the rough days of 2020, when the pandemic shut down the Shedd and other major museums for months.
And there are still difficult times ahead of us. But museums, through their actions, tell us that with work, we will get there.
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