A Field Trip To The Art Institute

(It is a very long post, but I want to record my memories of that day)

On Thursday. we had the best-ever field trip to the Art Institute. The best in almost four years that I volunteer at the Open Door Shelter!

When I came to cook dinner the first time after “the start of everything,” we discussed what we can do outside the shelter, and I said that we could do the Art Institute and see the new Monet Exhibit. I also suggested a couple of other things, but this one was embraced immediately.

Remembering all out previous Art Institute outings, I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm but held a pinch of skepticism. It happened before that when it is time to go, the youth forget, or just do not want to get out of the house, or whatever. I remember all delays in departure, losing people on the way there and back.

This time around, being late was not an option. I was not even sure how to secure our place in line for a Monet exhibit for the future date. A week after our conversation in the ODS, which was a week before our Art Institute outing, I went there during my lunch break, trying to see more of the exhibit and finding out what my options are for next Thursday.

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Reopening

Being able to come to the city and do stuff in the city is a very important part of my feeling of being “myself.” And now, some cultural attractions started to reopen. I want to mention that I have no desire to do things just because “they are allowed,” if I won’t be doing them under normal circumstances.

When the Chicago History Museum opened, I didn’t rush there because I didn’t go there for four years :). I checked all the walking tours of CAC and didn’t find any which I would be interested so again, I didn’t go. Although I think that is was a great idea to resume walking tours in small groups.
Aquarium opened on July 3, first for Members only, and now for everybody, but with advanced reservations (and will 1/4 of capacity). I love Aquarium, but I am used to going there with somebody, to whom I could show stuff for the first time. I tried to book the members’ hours for one of the future dates, but it turned out that they won’t give me an extra quest ticket in these circumstances at Aquarium. And I didn’t feel like going alone.

The Field Museum is reopening this weekend; actually, it reopened on Friday. The first five days were for Members only, but once again, I could not find the time, which would work for me, and I didn’t want to bring mom to the city during the excessive heat. So I decided – some time next time.
And today, the Art Institute announced that they are opening on July 30! And they are doing it the best way! Like all other museums, they will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They have flexible hours, so there are still days when they are open late, and each day (with no reservations required), the first hour is members- only. Can’t wait 🙂

Also, the Chicago Symphony finally sent a message about the next season. Lyric Opera and some of the theaters have already canceled the first part of the season. But the CSO said that they are going to try having some smaller concerts, and some broadcasts. They laid out all the limitations (50 people per sitting area, entrance-exit rules, etc.) I hope that this will happen

About Better Things

I didn’t open this email from the Chicago History Museum at first, because I thought it would be another invite for a virtual tour – I want to cry each time I see these invites. But when I opened it a couple of days later, it turned out it was something different:

PPE Donation Chicago History Museum

To the Chicago History Museum community,

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, supporting our community in the fight to contain the virus is more important than ever. As the local medical community let it be known that PPE (personal protective equipment) was in short supply, we realized that getting the PPE that we use at the museum everyday was needed at area hospitals.

At the Chicago History Museum, we use nitrile gloves every day to protect museum artifacts from oils and other contaminates on hands – not to mention to protect our Collections and Exhibitions staff from any potential hazardous substances that may sit on the artifacts upon acquisition (think: lead, radium, asbestos)! N95 face masks, eye protection, and polyethylene aprons are also used to protect staff during conservation treatment of artifacts.

Museums around the globe purchase PPE for these very reasons. While we are closed to the public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, our supplies are best utilized by the healthcare workers on the frontlines at the John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

Continuing to fight the spread of COVID-19 is a responsibility we all share. Yesterday, at 11:00 am, Britta Arendt Collection Manager at the Chicago History Museum, met with Daniel J. Ruiz, Senior Manager of Supply Chain Operations at the hospital to drop off a donation of the following supplies:

  • 63 boxes of nitrile gloves in all sizes, 6,300 pairs total
  • 9 boxes of N95 masks, 90 masks total
  • 100 polyethylene aprons
  • 20 pairs of shoe covers
  • 16 tyvek hoodies
  • 4 tyvek coverall suits 
  • 8 pairs protective eye wear 

On the same note: earlier this week, Metra sent an email informing that ” Medical personnel on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic can ride free.” Having that those individuals are probably the only ones who are taking Metra these days, it’s very generous.

El Greco Exhibit in the Art Institute

On Friday, I was planning to see El Greco exhibit in the Art Institute, since now the museum has after-hours three days a week, including Friday. I was anxiously monitoring their website, which was saying that the museum is opened. Finally, since there was not that many people in the office, I decided to go there during the lunch break. We were told to work from home on Thursday evening, but since I left on Thursday before that announcement, I had to come on Friday to pick up some stuff.

I was approaching the museum and wondering whether it was still opened. I was; there were not that many people inside, but there were some, and I was so happy I had that chance to enjoy the exhibit. Actually, the closing was announced two hours after I left the building :), so I was lucky indeed.

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Apsáalooke Women and Warriors at the Field Museum

On Tuesday, I attended an event in the Field Museum. That was one of many occasions, when I was not sure whether this is a right idea, having all other stuff going on (nope, not what you might think – I am just genuinely busy as usual) and I am so glad I went!

The museum just opened a new exhibit Apsáalooke Women and Warriors. On that day, museum members could view the exhibition during after-hours, till 8-30PM. Also, the museum hosted a panel with some Apsaalooke Nation people, including the curator of the exhibit. It was very interesting to learn about their philosophical concepts and beliefs, and about their art and fashions – I didn’t know about the elk teeth on women’s dresses – I thought it’s just an ornament, and didn’t know about men giving them to women, and how long it takes to make a traditional dress, and all other things.

Also, it was very interesting to observe during the after-panel Q&A, how the “historical-political” questions are still relevant.

Here are some photos from the exhibit:

A cradleboard
Faces of Apsaalooke women
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Visiting Aquarium with my Girls

Better later than never:). We visited the Shedd with Anna and Nadia when they were last time in town, on September 21. And back then I said: I need to write a thank you letter to the Aquarium! And I meant to write a blog post, but never did. So here is it.

Shedd is one of my most favorite places, but out of all my children, only Anna shares my love. And when we were deciding where to go with Nadia, we both voted for this destination. 

I used to have a family membership to Shedd when I had kids at home, but now I have an individual one. Still, they gave me a free guest pass, including the show. 

We were all wondering, how Nadia will react to her first Aquarium visit (she saw the whales in the ocean when they were in Australia), and belugas and whales indeed enchanted her. 

The thing I wanted to mention is how much more toddler-friendly Aquarium has become since my kids were kids. The whole Polar Play Zone is designed just for kid’s play and exploration. And we were extremely grateful for the cafe staff. When we picked our food, we were asked multiple times whether we know that this kids’ dish is cold. When Nadia spilled her milk, four people rushed to our table, all reassuring that everything is alright, one mopping the floor, another wiping the table, yet another putting the “wet floor” sign, and another staff bringing a new mild carton (we thanked, but didn’t take:)) And while cleaning they were asking how are we enjoying the visit, aside of this spilled milk :). I thought it was so-so nice of them!

Labor Day in Pullman

I have four hours on the Wolverine train to Ann Arbor, MI. I have a comfy seat, an electric plug, and the internet available, so it’s a good time to catch up with everything :). I returned from Wisconsin on Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, so I still had two full days and a little bit for myself. Usually, on Labor Day, I try to do something meaningful, something related to the holiday. And most of the time it means visiting Pullman.

Igor talked me into visiting it for the first time in 2014. I didn’t know anything about its amazing history back then and readily absorbed all the information. At that time, everybody was talking about getting Pullman the status of National Park, and in 2015 this happened.

This year I thought there is no way I can spend almost the whole day on this trip. But then I made some calculations, and due to the new Metra weekend schedule, it all appeared to look doable. So the decision was made, and I told Igor that I am coming.

We were hoping that the new status would escalate the restoration efforts, but the Florence Hotel is still closed to the public, and the factory restoration is still in process.

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Being A Tourist In My Own City

I love Chicago. I love this city at any time of the year, but especially in summer. It is a challenging task to talk me into going somewhere in summer. I like being here, and I do not mind the heat at all. There are so many things that only happen in summer, and summer is so short!

One of the reasons why I like summer in Chicago so much is that I can blend with the crowd of tourists from all over the world, and to take pictures of the same buildings for one hundredth and first time.

For example, to take pictures of mounted police

On Friday I took a half-day off, Boris came to the city by 12-30, and we headed to a quick lunch in the Pret, and then to the Art Institute.

This year the Nichols Bridgeway was closed way too often, for all sorts of events, like Pokemon Go! (I am trying very hard not to comment on the worth of these events, did you notice?!) This Friday it was opened, and so we’ve entered the Art Institute that way.

The city view from the Bridgeway
I am being a tourist
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The Rest Of Amsterdam

To be done with my Holland vacations – the last bits and pieces of my stay there.


There was one more museum which we visited – the Rembrandt House. There are not that many Rembrandt’ paintings there, but to see the place where he lived and created his art was exciting. That was one of many times when I thought about me as a 14-year old studying Rembrandt in the Hermitage museum in then Leningrad. He is one of my most favorite artists, and I was thinking, that back then, forty-two years ago I won’t believe if anybody would tell me I will be walking these rooms.

The kitchen
The room where Rembrandt would meet with his patrons
The workshop
A part of Rembrandt’s art collection

A couple of words about the conference: the venue was the old Amsterdam stock exchange, and I can’t recall ever being present at the scientific conference in the building that old!

I didn’t even plan to go there, but then came this early breakfast problem and the fact that I didn’t want to deprive Boris of his morning meetings. So I’ve accompanied Boris there on Sunday morning. And a couple of people said hi, and I replied – I am actually not here! And Boris said something to the effect whether I could stop explaining everybody, that I am not participating.

Then I went to a couple of keynotes – I was already there anyway! And then I saw C. Mohan, and for those who know him, it’s not a surprise that I’ve got a picture with him!

And then I’ve asked a couple of questions to the speakers. And I talked to several people. Later I thought that giving all my this year’s circumstances and the fact that I am unlikely to go to any other conferences till the end of the year, I could very well register and leave not on the 3rd, but on the 4th of July… whatever 🙂

Here are my last Amsterdam pictures – a beautiful afternoon in a beautiful city.

Next the morning I took a train to the airport, and before that, we had the nicest breakfast ever!

Resistance Museum Without Pictures

This post will have no pictures. I didn’t take any pictures in this museum, mostly because we were short on time. We wanted to visit this museum very much – we’ve read a lot about the Dutch Resistance. Even when we were visiting other museums in Amsterdam, such as Stedelijk, there were multiple mentions of how people, artists, and curators, in particular, felt compelled to aid the Resistance, and how vital the Resistance was for cultural and national preservation.

The location of the Resistance Museum is not a very central one, so it required some planning, especially because the conference had started already, but we made it. By that time, after being in Amsterdam for a couple of days, we’ve already realized how useful their museum audioguides are. They are way more convenient than the ones we have in the States, at least here in Chicago.

When we visited Brussels several years ago, we ended up being very disappointed in the Magritte Museum – there were not that many of his paintings there (then-recent Art Institute exhibit had more!) and we could not read any of his letters and diaries, which were on display in abundance. We were a little bit concerned that something like this will happen in the Resistance Museum, but the audioguides helped a lot!

That’s another reason I didn’t take any pictures inside this museum – obviously, all explanations are in Dutch, and the exhibit is mostly useless without them. I’ve learned a lot about how life in the Netherlands was unfolding during WWII. It turned out I didn’t know a lot, including brutal hunger towards the end of the war.

That won’t be the first time that I am realizing how little did I know about WWII before I came to the US. My knowledge about the events of WWII was very obscure. The way World War II history was taught at school would give you the impression that even though there was something else going on, the most significant part of it was the Great Patriotic War. When I first rented a set of DVDs about WWII in our local library was the first time I’ve realized that WWII was a WORLD war and that so many countries have participated. It was a shock for me that the USSR was mentioned on less than half of these DVDs.

Since that time the more I travel the world, the more I learn about different countries’ history, this realization becomes deeper. In this sense, the Resistance Museum was a great history lesson, and also an outstanding ethical experience. The museum is organized in such a way, that the visitors are presented with the questions the war-time Dutch citizen had to answer: should I cooperate or disobey? Should I fly or stay? Should I hide or should I protest? I could not even imagine one could build the whole museum based on these ethical choices.

And one more thought. I agree with my friend, who was saying that the visit to this museum and her subsequent research made her realize that the Soviet Union was the only country under German occupation which did not have a resistance movement. The “partisans” were organized and controlled by the communist party, or the communist party would acquire a leadership over a spontaneously organized group. Also, the focus of the “partisans” activity was on blowing bridges and military echelons, not on saving people, as it was with the Resistance in other countries. Sadly, I have to admit, that by the time the war broke out, the idea of resisting any authorities was wiped entirely off people’s minds and was not considered even a remote possibility.