Field Museum

Chicago’s Field Museum


From the Field Museum’s Mission Statement:


Preamble: Serving The Public As Educator

The Field Museum is an educational institution concerned with the diversity and relationships in nature and among cultures. It provides collection-based research and learning for greater public understanding and appreciation of the world in which we live. Its collections, public learning programs, and research are inseparably linked to serve a diverse public of varied ages, backgrounds and knowledge.

Subject Matter Focus: Living Together On The Living Earth

Combining the fields of Anthropology, Botany, Geology, Paleontology and Zoology, the Museum uses an interdisciplinary approach to increasing knowledge about the past, present and future of the physical earth, its plants, animals, people, and their cultures. In doing so, it seeks to uncover the extent and character of biological and cultural diversity, similarities and interdependencies so that we may better understand, respect, and celebrate nature and other people.

Collections: World-Wide Knowledge Database

The Museum holds encyclopedic collections of biological and geological specimens and cultural objects as the data needed to understand the nature of – and conditions affecting – environmental and cultural change. In support of these collections, we also hold significant collections of books, periodicals, photographs, illustrations, computer data, archival and instructional material. Like a great research library, our collections of more than 20 million items are a crucial part of the world’s knowledge database for the sciences, humanities and the arts. The Museum holds the collections in trust for future generations. Over time, new knowledge is gleaned from the collections. Accordingly, the Museum must manage the collections to provide for both long-term conservation and access and make strategic additions to the collections pursuant to clearly defined objectives. In discharging its collection trusteeship, the Museum recognizes the special relationship it has with the people whose cultures and habitats are represented in the collections. We will nurture these special relationships so together we can enhance greater understanding of cultural traditions and environmental surroundings for the benefit of all humankind.

Public Learning: Offering Greater Understanding About Environments And People

Unlike schooling, learning in a museum is self-motivated, self-directed, and can be lifelong. Unlike print and electronic media, information is communicated primarily through real, tangible objects. Museum learning usually takes place during leisure time and without the direction of a teacher. The exhibit is the principal avenue of learning. Exhibits are augmented by people-mediated programs and a visitor-oriented museum-wide staff which reaches out to assist all visitors. Services to schools and communities extend the museum experience to people beyond our walls. To stimulate a public sense of inquiry, curiosity and delight, our exhibits and programs are not only informative, but also entertaining and inspiring. We focus on critical environmental and cultural issues which are engaging and relevant to the public’s daily lives and civic responsibilities. We must be a vital educational and recreational destination for both our local and world-wide communities.

Research: Explaining The Patterns And Processes That Shape The Living Earth

The Museum maintains a vital program of basic research that continually stimulates active and pioneering uses of the collections. Seeking new knowledge and deriving new syntheses about the dynamic physical, biological and cultural patterns and processes that shape the living earth, Museum research centers on anthropology and the natural sciences of evolutionary and environmental biology and geology. All of the research programs are focused on the interrelationships among the earth, its environments, life and cultures and how they change over time. Our research methods use advanced technologies and encourage an interdisciplinary approach which combines the Museum’s disciplinary breadth and small research staff into a uniquely imaginative and focused whole. Our basic research has direct linkages to research about conservational, ecological, biomedical and multicultural issues. The Museum and its staff communicate our research findings and ideas about the history of the planet by means of scholarly and general papers, oral presentations to scientific and public audiences, public exhibits and other learning programs.

Publics: Reaching Out

The Field Museum serves diverse publics ranging from children, adults and families to the national and international research community. We reach out to our diverse publics and their changing educational needs. We have a special responsibility to reach out to the people of Chicago, neighboring communities and the State of Illinois. Our visitors should reflect the cultural, educational and economic diversity of the Chicago metropolitan area. We must work collaboratively and sensitively with the people in our locality, country and world whose cultures and habitats are represented in our collections, research and public programs. In reaching out, the Museum must build on its long-standing tradition of “outreach” which takes its resources and programs to schools, parks and communities.

Linkages: Working With Others

The Field Museum is a unique educational institution in a network of nearby and international educational institutions. We must work closely with neighboring schools, colleges, universities and research institutions to strengthen the quality and effectiveness of our collection-based research and public learning. We need to collaborate with other museums, environmental, cultural and recreational groups and organizations to fulfill our educational mission. The Museum has an obligation to seek out and collaborate with researchers and teachers who reside in the areas from which our collections come.

Center Of Understanding And Mutual Respect: Listening To Each Other

The Museum subject matter directly relates to the great issues of the present and future: environmental and cultural diversity and their interrelationships. There are differing scholarly and public viewpoints on these concerns. While the Museum does not take institutional positions on these issues, it must serve as a center of free inquiry, a marketplace for multiple points of view on these matters. In doing so it serves as a forum where relevant controversy can be aired. In this way the Museum can be a “door in the wall” of our differences and inspire greater knowledge, understanding and respect for our varied natural environments and cultural heritages.

Public Service: Our Commitment

We, the trustees, staff and volunteers of The Field Museum, are dedicated to public service. Together and individually we share a commitment to provide services and opportunities to our many publics. As an institution devoted to the study of diversity and relationships, we will practice diversity in our public contacts and staffing. We will nurture an environment of mutual respect which will extend to the public we serve. We will act ethically in our relations with the public and with each other. Collectively and individually we are committed to the mission of the Museum and our public service responsibilities.

Approved by the Board of Trustees June 15, 1992

Field Museum