This was the original first paragraph that I wrote for this post: I have to admit that I’ve only been to the Shedd Aquarium (the full name of which is “John G. Shedd Aquarium”) a few times. I recall a childhood field trip to the Aquarium, one trip with my parents when I was pretty young, and a trip sometime in the early 1990s.
At this point, I remembered that I had a trip to Chicago scheduled and that Alex and I could actually visit the aquarium and wouldn’t need the explanation that I hadn’t been there in over 20 years. So we did.
One thing that I’ve noticed about Chicago is that retail was a big deal there in a way that it doesn’t seem to have been in other cities. In Pittsburgh, for example, the Carnegie family was a big deal — the Carnegie Museums, Carnegie Mellon University, etc. In Chicago, one of the leading families was the Field family and you see their name on the Field Museum, for example. Marshall Field & Co. also was instrumental in the founding of the Shedd Aquarium. you see, John G. Shedd was an executive at Marshall Field & Co.
I wasn’t really thrilled by the aquarium when I was younger. For my first visits, I was too short to really see into the tanks comfortably (I loved the reef in the center of the building, though, since the glass goes all the way down to the floor). I loved the architecture, though. There are carvings of sea life, like scallop shells and sea stars, in the details on the building, and the octagonal dome above the reef is gorgeous. The rest of the building is long sort of galleries with an arched ceiling that gives the building a unique feel.
In 1991, they opened the Abbott Oceanarium and then they made another addition in 2003. Today the Shedd Aquarium is home to 32,000 animals, including dolphins, beluga whales, and sharks. There is also a tank holding sea lampreys, which are a major pest animal in the Great Lakes.
Most of the museum is accessible to wheelchair users. If you give the museum two weeks’ notice they can also get a sign language interpreter for deaf visitors. Also, as I write this, there are plans to add special features for blind visitors.