Explore Science Related Questions

How do I use the Library?

The public may visit the Library Reading Room between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.  Please check our online catalog to begin your research and view the library's holdings.  Appointments are required for utilizing Library collections.  To make an appointment to use the Library's collections, please send an email to: reflib@fieldmuseum.org or call the reference desk at 312-665-7887 between 1-4pm, Tuesday-Friday.

The Main Library is located in a non-public area on The Field Museum’s third floor.  As all collections are located in closed stacks, visitors must submit a request for material to the staff member on duty for retrieval and use in the Reading Room.  As the library's collections do circulate in the museum among staff, it is essential that you check our online catalog and submit a list of titles you wish to view before visiting the library.

Upon arrival at the museum, please inform the guest relations staff member or protection services officer that you wish to visit the library.  They will call and a staff member will come downstairs to greet you.  Having the reference desk extension (x7887) will expedite this process.  If you are only visiting the library, you do not have to pay admission to the museum.

Can The Field Museum provide appraisals of objects?

The Field Museum cannot appraise, evaluate or provide guidance regarding the sale of artifacts, specimens, photographs, printed works or original documents. 

Please refer to the websites of the following organizations. While they do not provide appraisals, they do maintain directories of  members and their appraisal specialties:

Appraisers Association of America

American Society of Appraisers

International Society of Appraisers

Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America


I have an object or photograph from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, can the Library/Archives help me identify it?

The Field Museum Library does not maintain a significant collection of materials regarding the collectibles from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. The following bibliographies and collectible guides listed below are a good starting point for your research. Clicking on the titles below will show you a list of libraries that own each title. These titles are also available in the Field Museum's research Library if you are able to visit. Please see this web page if you are interested in making an appointment to visit the Library.

Bertuca, David J., Donald K. Hartman, and Susan M. Neumeister. 1996. The World's Columbian Exposition: a centennial bibliographic guide. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.

Rossen, Howard M., and John M. Kaduck. 1976.Columbian World's Fair collectibles, Chicago (1892-1893). Des Moines: Wallace-Homestead Book Co.

Dybwad, G. L., and Joy V. Bliss. 1992. Annotated bibliography, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893: with illustrations and price guide. Albuquerque, N.M.: The Book Stops Here.

Dybwad, G. L., and Joy V. Bliss. 1999. Annotated bibliography World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893: supplement. Albuquerque, N.M.: The Book Stops Here.

The Field Museum Librarian also maintains a growing list of reference resources about the fair on WorldCat Local. Search it here, World's Columbian Exposition (1893) Resources.

What is a mammal?

A mammal is a vertebrate animal with hair and glands to produce milk for feeding its young.  Their middle ears include three bones--two of these were jaw bones in their reptilian ancestors.  Mammals  are also warm-blooded and have a four-chambered heart, but these traits are shared with unrelated animals (birds and theropods). The ancestors of modern mammals lived in the Triassic Period, in the early stages of the Age of Reptiles.

What are presolar grains and why do we study them?

Presolar grains are minerals that are older than anything else in our Solar System. They formed before the birth of our Solar System and a small fraction survived in primitive asteroids and comets. We extract presolar grains from fragments of these objects: unaltered meteorites, interplanetary dust particles and comet dust. We study the elemental and isotopic compositions of presolar grains to understand the presolar history of meteoritic matter. The interdisciplinary field of presolar grain research informally also called Astrophysics in the Laboratory is delivering a wealth of information on stars and our Galaxy that are not accessible through astronomical observations. One of our main motivations to study presolar grains, a surviving fraction of the source materials of our Solar System, is to improve our understanding of the history of our Galaxy.

How do I request an Interlibrary Loan?

Registered Library users can request an Interlibrary Loan. Please go here for details.

Do you have any information regarding the architecture and specifications of the current building?

We are currently working on a Museum History Resources guide to help answer this question. It is a work in progress that you can view here.

What should I do if I find a dead bird?

The Bird Division accepts salvaged specimens and turns them into scientific specimens for research purposes.  If you find a dead bird, pick it up (use gloves if that makes you feel more comfortable), place it in a ziplock bag, write a note with the following information on it and place it in the ziplock bag (very specific information on where was the bird found, the date you found the bird, and any other details you think we might need to know to maximize the value of the bird for scientific purposes), and put the bird in the freezer if you are not bringing it immediately into the museum.  Then give the Bird Division a call or send us an e-mail message to arrange a time for you to drop the specimen off at Field Museum.

Please note that native birds living within the State of Illinois are protected either by state, federal, or international laws, even when they are dead. It is illegal for private citizens to possess most native birds, either in whole or in part (including skulls, bones, and even feathers), except under terms of special permits or by exemptions under hunting laws and licenses. Therefore, collecting most bird specimens, either alive or dead, is illegal without proper permits and licenses. Fines and penalties for violating such regulations can amount to thousands of dollars and can include the possibility of jail time, depending on the severity of the infraction.

Do I have a meteorite or is it just an ordinary rock?

The Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies provides meteorite identifications as an educational service and public outreach activity to the general public. Meteorites are extremely rare and there are surprisingly many terrestrial rocks that look like meteorites - so-called "meteorwrongs". It is therefore important to critically evaluate your rock yourself before contacting us. We have prepared a meteorite identification checklist and an identification request form with frequently asked questions about meteorite identifications. This link will also provide you with further information on how to proceed with your request. 

What's the plural of octopus?


Do snails come out of their shells?

No.  Parts of a snail's body can move outside of the shell, but the whole animal never leaves.

What is an invertebrate?

Any animal with no vertebral column (spine).