Once again this year, the fall museum and zoo schedules are full, and not just because of the now-requisite Halloween and Christmas programming. Highlights include a World's Fair revisitation at the Field, commemoration of the Gettysburg Address' 150th anniversary at Springfield's Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and new holiday fare, including an ice-skating rink at Lincoln Park Zoo and a new variety of winter light display at the Morton Arboretum.
But keep an eye out, too, for the more short-term special programming. The Chicago Botanic Garden, for instance, has its annual Fall Bulb Festival (Oct. 4-6); there's also a girls science symposium at the Adler Planetarium and a night of Lincoln Park Zoo scientists talking about rhinoceros conservation.
This list, although not brief, is in no way comprehensive.
From the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier to Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum to the historical book "The Devil in the White City," Chicagoans do not seem to tire of our World's Fair heritage. Betting on that — and on the continued appeal of museums digging into their vast collections — the Field Museum this fall presents "Wonders of the 1893 World's Fair," the latest in its fine "Opening the Vaults" series.
Among the wonders being promised in the new exhibit are a meteorite from the fair that was kept chained in a dungeon, either out of legitimate scientific ignorance, a Barnum-esque sense of showmanship or both. Do not taunt the meteorite!
Oct. 25 through Sept. 7, 2014, at the Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive; 312-922-9410 or fieldmuseum.org
Seven score and ten years ago, and just 18 weeks after the bloody Civil War battle at Gettysburg, President Lincoln gave a little speech. The occasion was the consecration of a national cemetery at the battle site in south-central Pennsylvania. Contrary to Lincoln's words, the world has much noted and long remembered what was said there, at least by him. And it will do so with a passion this November when the nation marks the milestone anniversary.
Springfield's first-rate Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library will be among the leaders in the celebration. In the first hour of Nov. 19, just after midnight, Lincoln interpreter Fritz Klein will present what the museum claims will be the first-in-the-nation Gettysburg Address delivery on the anniversary. But the speech will be just the culmination of a Nov. 18 anniversary-eve vigil, which begins at 7 p.m., is free of charge and will also include dramatic readings from Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals" and the display of one of only five copies of the address written in Lincoln's hand. On Nov. 19, there'll be another Klein reading, and the 20th will feature a round-table discussion by a team of scholars, not necessarily rivals, and a new documentary about Gettysburg.
At the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, 212 N. Sixth St., Springfield; 217-558-8934 or presidentlincoln.org
War from the living room
If you can't make it to Springfield, or simply want to whet your appetite for Gettysburg activities, check out the Newberry Library's new exhibit, "Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North." Beginning Sept. 27, the Chicago historical library will look at the impact the war had on those who weren't fighting, using a gathering of books, paintings, magazine illustrations and sheet music of the era. The Terra Foundation for American Art is a co-presenter and co-curator, and among the paintings are ones by Winslow Homer and Frederic E. Church. First editions culled from the collection include works by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
At the Newberry Library; 60 W. Walton St.; 312-943-9090 or newberry.org
Generation T or so
A traveling exhibition at the Elmhurst Historical Museum celebrates our World War II-era foreparents. One of their marks of greatness: not defining themselves in a confining sociological category, with a letter. Others, however, have given them a name, and so the exhibit is called "Our Lives, Our Stories: America's Greatest Generation." Born in the 1910s and 1920s, they were shaped by the Great Depression and then, of course, the war and the great middle-class economic boom that followed. The exhibit, from the Minnesota Historical Society, is told in the generation's own words; Elmhurst will add an interactive kiosk featuring the stories of local residents from the era.
Opening Friday at Elmhurst Historical Museum, 120 E. Park Ave., Elmhurst; 630-833-1457 or elmhursthistory.org
More Greatest Generation
The Chicago History Museum's new perspective on World War II is evident in the title of its new fall exhibition, "American Heroes: Japanese American WWII Nisei Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal." The service of these volunteer soldiers who fought in Europe (and were given a medal by Congress in September 2011) was especially remarkable when you consider what the government was doing to other Japanese Americans. The museum worked with the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, the Japanese American Service Committee, and Chicago Nisei Post 1183 of the American Legion to present the display, developed by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
Opening Oct. 19 at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St.; 312-642-4600 and chicagohistory.org
For the first time, the Morton Arboretum gets in on the holiday lights game with a new and, it says, novel way to display bulbs in the Thanksgiving-to-New Year's interlude. "Illumination: Tree Lights" sounds, we must admit, pretty cool. Hug trees, and they glow; sing to them, and they'll grow brighter. The milelong path around the central Meadow Lake and conifer trail will also feature a touch panel that controls the light colors, and there'll be fire pits, hot chocolate and s'mores.
Lincoln Park Zoo amps up its popular holiday festival this year by adding something new: An ice-skating rink will open with ZooLights on the day after Thanksgiving. Is this happening because the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup? It's a possibility. Is it because nearby Lake Michigan refuses to freeze? Also possible. Will the winter give us enough chilly days to make the rink worthwhile? Consult your "Old Farmer's Almanac." The rink will be at Farm-in-the-Zoo at the southern end of the zoo. Ice skating is $5 per person, $5 for skate rental. The free ZooLights shut down Jan. 5; the rink stays open to March 2.
Opening Nov. 29 at the Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Drive; 312-742-2000 or lpzoo.org
Read it, don't weep
In a well-conceived fall programming blast, three new exhibits at the Kohl Children's Museum will push literacy on young children, a noble act in the texting era. The theory, apparently, is to get them hooked on books before the cellphones arrive. "Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites" is a touring exhibit that allows children to roam through life-size versions of the worlds offered in seven classics, including "The Snowy Day" and "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom." "Sheridan's Books and Crannies" is a new permanent exhibit that is the reinvention of the Glenview museum's Play Library as a pretend bookstore with reading loft, writing-related activities and no competition from Amazon. And Storywalk is an outdoor walk on a read-along trail featuring pages from David Ezra Stein's storybook "Leaves"; it was developed in conjunction with the Glenview Park District and Public Library after their previous Storywalk successes.
All opening Oct. 1 at the Kohl Children's Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview; 847-832-6600 or kohlchildrensmuseum.org
The Morton Arboretum is celebrating a honeybee weekend: Events include a honey competition, a honeybee hike and visit to the Arboretum's hives, and a Honey & Mead Dinner featuring the ancient intoxicant (6 p.m. Sept. 5; $50-$55). University of Illinois insect expert May Berenbaum will give a talk as well.
Sept. 7-8 at the Morton Arboretum
It's no secret that few of us know as much as we could about our fellow creatures. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum tries to boost the knowledge quotient with the new exhibit "Animal Secrets." The exhibition is organized around the idea of hidden habitats and secret lives of forest animals and will feature live animals from the museum's collections, including salamanders and snakes, and specimens from the collection of the institution's parent, the Chicago Academy of Sciences.
Opening Sept. 21 at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive; 773-755-5100 or naturemuseum.org
Disney under glass
Each fall in recent years, the Museum of Science and Industry has presented a special exhibition featuring an American pop-culture icon renowned for work that inspires children and not a few adults: Jim Henson, Dr. Seuss, Charles Schulz. This year, the head of the Disney empire takes a turn in one of the temporary exhibit spaces. "Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives" will look at the Chicago native son and his dominion, with the help of almost 300 artifacts and (let's hear it for objectivity) show presenters D23: The Official Disney Fan Club. There's a rich stash of material to draw upon, from Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdom to Jack Sparrow. But it'll be interesting to see if the exhibition tries to make the case for greatness, rather than mere popularity.
Oct. 16 to Feb. 17, 2014, at the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive; 773-684-1414 or msichicago.org
Call of the wild
A good chance to hear from Lincoln Park Zoo's field scientists comes with the "Rescuing Rhinos" edition of the ongoing "Wine & Wildlife" series. Speakers include zoo epidemiologist Rachel Santymire, who has worked in South Africa with Eastern black rhinos, among the planet's most endangered animals.
6 p.m. Oct. 23 in Cafe Brauer at Lincoln Park Zoo; $14-$17 (ages 21-plus) at 312-742-2067 or lpzoo.doubleknot.com
Journey to 4th dimension
On the way out of the Shedd Aquarium's 4-D theater is "Dora & Diego's 4-D Adventure: Catch that Robot Butterfly!" Into the movie rotation will go "Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure," about a sea monster trying to survive. What is the fourth "D"? "Bubbles, wind, strange and wonderful smells, tickles, amazing sounds and all kinds of surprises," according to the aquarium's website. No word on whether the robot butterfly was, ultimately, captured.
Sept. 12 at the Shedd Aquarium,
1200 S. Lake Shore Drive; 312-939-2438 or sheddaquarium.org
'Nazis. I hate these guys'
Indiana Jones was a Field Museum kind of guy, but his famous opinion of representatives from Germany's National Socialist Party doesn't enter into the museum's November exhibition, "State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda." The traveling show, produced by the United States Holocaust Museum, explores how Hitler and his party used propaganda during the 1920s and 1930s to lead the country into war and worse.
Nov. 6 through Feb. 2, 2014, at the Field Museum
Girls' STEM careers
Reflecting priorities of new president Michelle Larson, the Adler Planetarium hosts its first-ever "Girls Do Hack" day, designed to inspire young women to pursue work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The space museum, working with Chicago Public Schools and other youth organizations, will invite 48 girls, ages 14-18, to a day of workshops and activities such as developing apps, building robots and detecting exoplanets.
Nov. 9 at the Adler Planetarium,
1300 S. Lake Shore Drive; 312-922-7827 oradlerplanetarium.org