Sunday, March 29, 2009

Visit to Chicago Museum's expensive and, well, disappointing

Every year I try to bring my son to visit Chicago's museums. And every year, I leave with two impressions. First, the cost of the museums has increased prohibitively. Second, the museum's are falling apart.

Worse, once you pay to get inside the museu, you have to pay again to see some of the main special attractions. It ends up costing you a fortune, from the parking to the museum entrance to the shows.

But that isn't the worst part. The museums are in complete disrepair. They are falling apart. Too many of the "free" exhibits are broken. Over and over again, my son and I ran into signs that read something to the effect of "Please excuse. Exhibit is undergoing maintenance."

That didn't stop you from jacking up the cost of the ticket to get into the museum. For two people, we ended up spending more than $100.

Before the Museum directors increase the costs of tickets to get into the museum and the numerous extra costs required to purchase special shows inside the museum, they should fix the exhibits. I can understand one exhibit not working. But I counted 30 that were broken with the lame, lazy excuse that theya re in disrepair.

I was very disappointed with the Museum of Science and Industry, which I have visited since I was a very young child. Some of the best memories I have with my mother and father and family and cousins, relatives visiting from out of town, are when we went together to visit the Museum of Science and Industry.

It was free, but even if they had charged money, the exhibits all worked. There was a pride displayed by the museum regarding every single exhibit.

We purchased a ticket to go through the U-505. The guide, Lisa, was a very informative person. But the first thing she told us was we can't take pictures inside the captured Nazi submarine because the museum didn't want us to sell them on eBay. We did pose to take a picture with the Museum Photographer as we walked into the U-505 gallery area, that we purchased for $20.

What a rip-off. Why can't it all be a part of the package. Doesn't anyone care about the public. I really doubt anyone would pay anything to buy a stupid picture of the inside of the U-505. And when my son gets older and has his own family and kids, he won't be talking about the U-505 the way I did when I was a kid and the submarine was parked outside of the museum. What a huge attraction it used to be, instead of the altar of money and clout that it is today.

Can I say something else? They have former WBBM TV Reporter and anchor Bill Kurtis narating nearly every single video program. I like Bill Kurtis, but just him? How about some variety to add a little diversity. His monotone voice get's to be annoying. It's distracting.

I bet they paid a fortune for that!

No, if my son remembers anything, it will be the unkempt, little cared-for incubator that drew the largest crowd as children with huge smiles across their face stood and stared the way I did for hours years ago watching the eggs under the bright warm lamps waiting to mature to hatching. One egg did hatch while we were there and it was the most exciting moment of the museum visit. Just sitting there watching the chick peck through the shell from a small crack to a growing break that spilled pieces of shell around next to the Florence Flask with the thermometer. We watched in amazement as the chick finally spilled out, tired from the work.

It was phenomenal. In contrast, the U-505 was too much like a choreographed conveyor belt of tourist schmucks, paraded through and rushed out so the museum could cash our checks. No sovenirs, unless we paid for them in the expensive museum store. Very little to take back with us, except memories of how much it cost and a discussion about not wanting to go back there again. Except for the hatching of the little chick, a free exhibit that has been a core attraction at the museum for generations.

We didn't waste our time with the pirate exhibit. We can see better and more for far less elsewhere.

Too bad that culture in Chicago has come down to an emphasis on money and government apathy. If I didn't have a life, iw ould have walked through an inventoried on video the broken displays that dot the Museum of Science and Industry.

Tragically, you have to blame the museum's fall on the political mechanics who run it, like Dave Mosena. Oh, I saw him shove his face in front of the camera's at the Chicago Public Schools Science Fair competition. Him and Dave Huberman, the political meachanic Mayor Daley tabbed to help him squeeze the money out of the school system while smiling and distracting the public away from the continue decay of the city's educational system.

The truth is politics and clout mean more to the people who run the museums than service, excellence in exhibitions and respect for the consumer. In the old days, all the politicians cared about was your vote in exchange for a new garbage can lids. Now, what we get for our hardearned money is the garbage.

Here's the video of the chick hatching. Don't waste your time until the Mayor puts someone else in the museum's place who has better qualifications to lead and a dedication to culture and service.

-- Ray Hanania

No comments: