I came to The Field Museum on a pretty regular basis as a child, but I never saw any of the behind-the-scenes parts of the building until I was about 15 years old. My uncle, an etymologist, had been doing research out of Columbus, Ohio and had come to town to deliver some specimens to The Museum. He brought my mother and me along and we got to walk around the third floor offices and peek inside some of the collections storage cabinets. Of course, at age 15 I was too angsty and aloof to really be able to enjoy having access to such cool stuff. To make matters even worse, my innate curiosity had been somewhat crushed by our culture's tendency to dissuade girls from pursuing interests in math and science (but that's a subject for another blog!).
Later, as a grown-up (well, biologically speaking anyway), I would come to Member Nights at The Museum, and be filled with giddy excitement. For whatever reason, gazing at row upon row of cabinets full of carefully organized objects was incredibly tantalizing. What WAS all that stuff? Where did it come from? How much of its story is still a mystery? What goes on behind all those closed doors? And it wasn't just the objects that filled me with glee. It was the people. The scientific staff were so genuinely enthusiastic about their work and willing to share it with us laypeople that I was overwhelmed. I wanted to be like the research assistant who, when I asked a question about the cephalopod in the jar in front of her, unscrewed the lid and gamely thrust her bare hand inside, yanking out the pickled creature without a moment's hesitation in order to show me what she was talking about. Scientists, like artists, have always seemed like sorcerers to me. They see the world through a lens of understanding that the rest of us aren't lucky enough to posses. That's why I've devoted my professional life to supporting the arts and scientists. If I can't be a practitioner myself, I'll do everything I can to advocate for those who can!
Now that I'm employed by The Field Museum, my curiosity has only grown. I find myself getting intentionally lost on my lunch break. I love turning a corner and finding myself in a room full of people using minute tools to prepare dinosaur fossils. Or wandering into an office where someone is cataloguing butterfly specimens. I still don't have a good understanding of what goes on inside most of our labs, but I'm driven to find out. And even though I've experienced a genuine sense of panic more than once upon realizing that I've gotten completely turned around inside a labyrinth of shelves and I'm not sure if I'll ever make it back to my own office, I can't help but feel a little choked up when I think about how lucky I am.
This is a magical world we live in--more fantastical than any Tolkien could have imagined--and we get to explore it together inside the walls of The Museum. I'm overjoyed to be here inside this wonderful maze! (Now, can somebody tell me how to get to Stanley Field Hall?)