Science & Education

Our scientific and education efforts are organized around four centers: Gantz Family Collections Center, Negaunee Integrative Research Center, Keller Science Action Center, and the Learning Center.

Museum scientists work across these four centers to pursue work that furthers our institution’s mission and share what we learn with the public.


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Gantz Family Collections Center

Less than one percent of our collection is actually on display at the Museum. More than 40 million objects and specimens remain behind the scenes, where they fuel scientific research and conservation programs by our own scientists and collaborators around the world. Scientists have used our collections to trace the trajectory of infectious diseases, estimate when primates diverged from other mammals on the tree of life, decipher how the Maya produced their famous blue pigment, and reveal why the Bald Eagle almost became extinct. Our team has worked for decades with the people of Tokomaru Bay in New Zealand. We offer Indigenous groups access to collection data, coordinate historical and legal analyses, and develop collaborations with tribal representatives and heritage communities. We’re always working to make our collections more accessible so they can continue to encourage curiosity and ongoing discovery.

Negaunee Integrative Research Center

Our research is rooted in our world-class collections and focused around three areas: life sciences, earth sciences, and social sciences. State-of-the-art research tools in the Pritzker Laboratory for Evolutionary Biology and Molecular Systematics and other shared facilities help us study how species are interrelated and reveal interactions within nature and between nature and cultures. We’re also training the next generation of pioneering researchers. We work closely with university partners like the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northwestern University. Our scientists serve as thesis advisors for international graduate students, particularly in Latin America and Africa. Knowledge generated by our programs helps us understand our planet and common humanity.

Keller Science Action Center

Our scientific reputation and huge collections give us special credibility with local communities and government officials, both close to home and in remote corners of the world. In our own backyard, through our programs and multi-institution collaborations like the Chicago Cultural Alliance, we are endeavoring to re-establish the connection between people and nature in urban areas. Across the globe, we have already protected more than 33 million acres of species-rich tropical forests in the Andes-Amazon region through large-scale conservation corridors. And we’re always working to do more. We are making our discoveries accessible to conservationists everywhere. Our publicly accessible Field Guides accelerate the identification of plants and animals in habitats around the world. They empower fieldwork, inform conservation action plans, and enhance learning for communities, volunteers, and students.

Learning Center

The Museum’s targeted programs make science learning exciting and accessible for parents, classroom educators, and students. Our early childhood science efforts in the Museum include the Grainger Science Hub, where visitors can interact with specimens from our collection, and the Crown Family PlayLab, the 7,200 square-foot learning center designed for children ages two through six. We also welcome thousands of students through our doors every year for field trips. To encourage exploration, items from the N. W. Harris Learning Collection—a library of more than 1,200 specimens and artifacts—are available to check out for use in classrooms or informal learning environments. We also offer educator professional development, student volunteer opportunities, and instructional tools for educators—all in an effort to inspire people of all ages to explore like a scientist and become meaningful contributors to our complex global society.