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Museum of Science and Industry celebrates 80th birthday with 80 artifacts

Kids walk by gigantic Paul Bunyan stature from 1950's Museums Science Industry's 80th anniversary celebration. June 19 2013. | Alex

Kids walk by a gigantic Paul Bunyan stature from the 1950's at the Museums of Science and Industry's 80th anniversary celebration. June 19, 2013. | Alex Wroblewski~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 22, 2013 6:21PM



As a five-year-old boy, a wide-eyed Bert Benade stepped into the Museum of Science and Industry in 1933 to see its very first exhibit.

“The only thing they had was the coal mine,” said, Benade, 86, a longtime volunteer. “The wings were empty. No three floors, no balcony, no nothing. It was a lot different than it is now.”

On Wednesday, the museum celebrated its 80th birthday by debuting “80 At 80,” a collection of 80 artifacts that represent the “museum’s DNA” from early inventions to modern advancements, according to Kathleen McCarthy, head curator.

The exhibit runs through Feb. 2, 2014.

“To me, this collection is about creativity,” McCarthy said.

Artifacts range from the 1909 Jones Live Map Meter, or the first version of GPS, to a 1948 wire recorder with a thin piece of steel that recorded and erased sound.

The museum also has brought back some of its most popular artifacts for the collection, like a replica of the giant, moving Paul Bunyan head statue from the 1950s “World of Hardwoods” exhibit, which had visiting school children either enamored or terrified.

The “Transparent Anatomical Manikin” — or TAM — is also back. It’s the museum’s last existing model. Her organs and systems were built to light up on demand while explaining each organ’s role and function. On display from 1972 until 1992, TAM was featured on the Nirvana album, “In Utero.”

McCarthy said she chose artifacts that would “spark the thought process,” one being a railway cycle car — a horizontal wooden tandem rail bike built in the 1890s creatively invented by a bike maker and rail worker. “Before they’d go on horseback [to inspect railroads], or fire up the locomotive, which was costly,” McCarthy said. “..They created this and within a few years they had a whole new industry and they were shipping them from all around the world.”

Peter Ascoli, grandson of the museum’s founder Julius Rosenwald was on hand, recounting stories of the man who fought for years to get the museum at the site of the World’s Columbian Exposition. “He wanted a place for kids to learn and enjoy and be inspired,” Ascoli said. “...It took a long time before they could agree that the site could only be a museum. And it worked, absolutely.”



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