Interested in digging up dinosaurs? Have an appreciation for the exquisite art of China? Want to peek behind the curtain of a Saturday Night Live show? You’re in the right place, because Chicago’s leading museums are hosting exhibitions on these fascinating subjects and more. Check out these six big exhibits and shows your group won’t want to miss while visiting Chicago.

1. Saturday Night Live: The Experience

Saturday Night Live: The Experience at Museum of Broadcast Communications

Go behind the scenes of the iconic Saturday Night Live (SNL) television show in this new exhibit at the Museum of Broadcast Communications. See a full-scale replica of SNL’s famed Studio 8H in New York’s Rockefeller Center and check out the immersive galleries that showcase the office of Executive Producer Lorne Michaels, the writers’ room and more than 500 artifacts that include costumes, original sets (including Wayne’s World) and scripts. Walk through the entire process of creating a show in a week, from writing the episode and building sets in a day, to rehearsals and the live show. Groups of 10 or more can arrange for a museum tour.

2. Planet Nine

Planet Nine

In July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft gave the world its first up-close look at Pluto, the most famous dwarf planet in the solar system. The New Horizons flyby was big news, and the pictures it continues to send back to Earth reveal a world far more complex than anyone realized. But is there another planet lurking beyond Pluto that’s waiting to be discovered? During this thrilling sky show at the Adler Planetarium, join scientist Mike Brown and his team at CalTech on their first night searching for the ninth planet at the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. Using nothing but their wits, high-powered telescopes and a thorough understanding of orbital mechanics, these intrepid explorers make new discoveries about how our solar system formed—and what it may be hiding.

On February 19, 2018 the award-winning exhibit What is a Planet? returns to the Adler (through January 2019). The exhibit continues the debate over Pluto’s demotion to a dwarf planet and explores the question of what qualifies as a planet. Groups should register at least two weeks in advance of their visit to the Adler Planetarium to receive discounted rates.

3. Mirroring China’s Past: Emperors and Their Bronzes

Mirroring China's Past: Emperors and Their Bronzes at the Art Institute of ChicagoChinese bronzes of the second and first millennia BC are exquisite vessels that were made to offer sacrifices to ancestors, accompany the deceased to the underworld, or commemorate familial lineages in public ceremonies. Unearthed by emperors centuries later, these spiritually significant objects acquired yet another layer of meaning as part of imperial collections. For the first time, this exhibition (held February 25-May 13, 2018) brings together approximately 180 works from the Art Institute of Chicago, the Palace Museum in Beijing, the Shanghai Museum, and other important museums and private collections from around the United States. Groups of 15 or more get discounted Art Institute admission, and can arrange for professionally guided tours and lectures. 

4. Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography

Kenneth Josephson, "Chicago," 1972

Chicago-based photographer Kenneth Josephson changed the way we think about pictures with his conceptual photography that pushes the boundaries of the medium. Demonstrating that images convey an idea, in addition to a picture, Josephson’s work focuses on the unique qualities of a photograph, specifically how it is cropped or reproduced. Using visual techniques like taking photographs of photographs, his images often comment on themselves with a wry sense of humor. The exhibition title comes from a work in the exhibit by Robert Cumming, which distills Josephson’s skill at bending the truth in order to expose the inner workings of photographic images. Picture Fiction is on view from April 28-December 30, 2018 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). Groups of 10 or more must call the MCA box office for advance admission.

5. Antarctic Dinosaurs

Antarctic Dinosaurs at The Field Museum

Today Antarctica is a forbidding land of snow and ice, but 200 million years ago it was part of the supercontinent called Gondwana: a wooded, lush habitat where dinosaurs thrived. Come along on a dramatic adventure at The Field Museum (June 15, 2018-January 6, 2019) to one of the most isolated environments on earth and join in the thrilling hunt for never-before-seen dinosaur fossils that shed new light on our planet’s ever-changing climate and geology. Follow Field Museum scientists as they carry out a harrowing expedition, braving extreme conditions to excavate and bring home remarkable fossils that deepen our understanding of life on earth.

In celebration of its 125th anniversary, in late spring The Field Museum will unveil Titanosaur, a huge new herbivore from Argentina that will be stationed in Field Stanley Hall. Titanosaur replaces the beloved SUE the T. rex, which will be moving to a new gallery in spring 2019. Groups receive discounted admission to The Field Museum, and can arrange for docent-guided tours.

6. The Science Behind Pixar

©The Science Behind Pixar

This special touring exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry (May 24, 2018-January 6, 2019) gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at Pixar Animation Studios’ complex filmmaking process. See how some of Pixar’s most popular characters (including Buzz Lightyear, Dory and Sulley) are brought to life on the screen. The exhibit explores the science and technology behind Pixar’s beloved animated films. Follow the animation process, from initial story ideas to the creation of virtual 3D character models and the production of actual movie scenes. Throughout the exhibit, visitors can engage in hands-on activities that allow them to experience the computer innovations behind Pixar’s process.

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