Museum of Science and Industry marks 80th birthday

June 19, 2013 (CHICAGO)

A birthday cake for one of the greatest educators ever -- the Museum of Science and Industry. Eighty years of translating the complicated world of science into simple terms so we all can understand – "80 at 80" is the brand new exhibit.

"80 at 80 is 80 artifacts from the museum's collection. The earliest one is from the 1860s and the newest one is from this week. And these artifacts show human ingenuity as we explore and understand and impact our world," said Kathleen McCarthy, director of collections.

They looked through 35,000 pieces in their collection to come up with the 80. Some were on display way back when, others have never been on exhibit before. But all of them are interesting, like the 1947 General Motors Hydra Matic transmission.

When the MSI opened 80 years ago, the first blockbuster exhibit was the coal mine. And it's all because of Peter Ascoli's grandfather Julius Rosenwald, who funded the museum.

"He wanted a museum which kids could enjoy and learn from and where there were plenty of exhibits where they could participate in the process," Ascoli said.

They say it is the museum's DNA, the small items that make up the big picture of industry and invention, like the original GPS from 1909. You bought map discs and then played them on a phonograph as you drove.

"Turn left at the barn. When you see the railroad tracks go across and go right. It was like GPS today," McCarthy said. "It doesn't say 'recalculating.'"

And the giant Paul Bunyan head is back for another visit.

The new exhibit at the facility on the city's South Side will run through February 2.

MSI opened its doors on June 19, 1933 and was the first museum in North America to feature interactive exhibits. Last year, more than 1.4 million people visited the museum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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