Thursday, November 3, 2011

Uptowner Spending 30 Nights At MSI

photo by Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune
By Steve Johnson, Chicago Tribune
It is approaching midnight in the cavernous temple to science and tourism. The patrons of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry have long since left the building, their minds, it is hoped, as stimulated as their legs are weary.

Even the after-hours visitors are gone: The young couple who'll have their wedding here tomorrow. The paranormal investigators, brought in by staff, pre-Halloween, to "detect" "ghosts" on the museum's Pioneer Zephyr train and U-505 submarine. The Illinois science teachers concluding their annual meeting's big night out by drinking beer and wine in the giant central rotunda.

With a series of clicks and keystrokes in a hypercooled back room, the last exhibits, too, have been told to sign off. Good night, tornado. Good night, avalanche. Good night, moon landing vehicle.

One exhibit, however, keeps going. In a 16-foot-by-16-foot Plexiglas room that visitors cannot miss as they enter the museum's 14 acres, Kevin Byrne perches on a sofa, looks into his laptop's camera and records the introduction to a video, one in his very steady series of blog posts, tweets and YouTube efforts designed, in part, to demystify this sometimes overwhelming Chicago institution.

Above him is a banner that begins to explain. "Month at the Museum 2," it says. "Science Never Sleeps." On his torso, a yellow T-shirt elaborates: The back of it says "Day 10," just as tomorrow's shirt will say "Day 11," and so on.

Byrne, an energetic 33-year-old marathon runner from the Uptown neighborhood, was the winner of this year's contest to find someone eager to spend 30 days living, sleeping and breathing the MSI — and, in the process, helping to humanize it and, more basically, reminding people to come visit the big building near the lake down in Hyde Park. Continue Reading

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