Covering museums in Chicago is like having a horn of plenty to pluck fruit from. Just in recent days, the Newberry Library had the first book printed in America in for a pre-auction visit, and I then got to spend an afternoon at the Field Museum's N.W. Harris Learning Center, an extraordinary lending library of scientific artifacts
Since taking on museums (and zoos), I've learned that such diversity of subject matter is more typical than unusual. I can write about hard science if I want to; many of the Chicago institutions are research leaders. I can write about the showmanship and popular culture side of museums and about the ways they interact with history. And I can write about the challenges of running them, tagging along with the great work being done by our investigative team.
And the great thing is, the public is instantly invested in almost all of these stories. Even if Chicagoans only get to the Museum of Science and Industry, or the Adler Planetarium, once a year, the reaction I get from readers tells me how much civic pride (and, sometimes, frustration) people have with these long-established, often great institutions.
Along the way, I learn all kinds of useful things, such as -- via the Harris Learning Center story --where I can go to borrow a stuffed beaver.