We took a family visit to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium last weekend. What a great trip. With more than 30,000 critters representing 1500 unique species of water-living or loving animals to see and learn about, the Shedd really does have something for everyone.
The line of people waiting to get into the aquarium was well over 300. With a gusty northeast wind blowing off the lake, it was a very cold wait to say the least. Amazingly, people were sticking it out. While the optimist in me says that this is prima facie evidence of the public’s interest in biology and the natural world more broadly, the reality is that the kids in line probably wouldn’t let their parents leave.
Once inside, I was really gratified to see so many kids with eyes wide and fingers excitedly pointing at the fish that looks like seaweed, or the many sharks patrolling the large reef exhibit. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw so many cameras at a museum. It was like Hannah Montana was swimming in the tank.
Shedd staff did a nice job of bringing exhibits out from “behind the glass” for a closer look. Not only does this spark immediate visitor interest and engagement, but it presents staff with the opportunities to talk about the importance of conservation, research, and preserving biodiversity. My kids were asking lots of questions and getting lots of answers. In contrast to the static signs or placards next to each exhibit, the face-to-face time was 100X more effective as means of engaging visitors. The Shedd should really try and do more of this.
Unfortunately for us, the larger marine mammal exhibit (dolphins, beluga whales, etc.) was closed for renovation, to reopen this June. From what I saw of the renovation, though, it looks spectacular.
A colleague at Science Chicago pointed out that the Chicago City Pass is a great way to take in great deal for those who want to take in the Adler Planetarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, and a trip up the Hancock Tower or Sears Tower. It's almost half off the list price.