Go Behind the Scenes as Teens Work on the Final Details of the HumaNature Pop-Up Exhibit

Monday, April 08, 2013 at 9:37 am

YDT'er Matthew takes us on a tour of the various work teams that are developing the HumaNature pop-up exhibit at the Field Museum. Check out how the teens are doing as they approach their final deadline. 

It’s a Thursday afternoon at Chicago’s Field Museum. Nothing seems out of the ordinary to the average visitor as they meander through the upstairs halls — peeking at SUE the T-Rex’s skull, watching scientists at work in fossil prep labs, observing a diorama depicting the millions-of-years transformation of volcanic islands into atolls, watching videos of scientists at work surveying plants and animals in the Peruvian rainforest. But upon reaching the end of the Restoring Earth exhibit, a truly perplexing sight meets their eyes. Through a glass-paned door, they spy nine teenagers pouring over charts and drawings, typing feverishly at Macbooks, and fumbling with iPhones and film equipment. This is not just any afternoon at The Field Museum. The Youth Design Team is hard at work making the final preparations for the launch of their pop-up exhibit HumaNature, a treatise on the complex co-evolutionary relationships between humans and the various plant, animal, and bacteria species we coexist with.


As a Content Specialist for HumaNature, I create text content for panels, social media, videos and other exhibit-associated materials. I came in this afternoon to find newly printed mini-panels, and I started working straightaway with the Graphics team and our Project Manager/Instructor Johanna to find any errors and to shorten/break up panel text. All the while keeping up a constant stream of Mott’s Fruit Snacks.


The Graphics team’s final panel printing deadline is swiftly approaching. Sarah, Sophie, and Isabel are as busy as the bees on panel 9 pulling everything together. Sophie and Sarah are working on finalizing the logo, maintaining standardized font and text alignment throughout the exhibit, keeping header style and font size consistent, and seemingly a dozen other things. Isabel continues to wow us all with the illustrations she’s making for the exhibit.


Video Specialist Lyle is in the process of filming and editing three films for the pop-up exhibit. This past Thursday, he worked closely with Field Museum Digital Learning Specialist Edge to shoot a soap opera-style allegorical representation of malaria’s relationship with humanity as a dysfunctional couple. I had the opportunity to act in the film, as “Hugh Mann”, the jilted lover whom “Mal Aria” has spurned in favor of a dog (an example of mammalian zooprophylaxis of malaria). As Hugh Mann, I ripped apart a paper heart in the middle of the Pacific Spirits exhibit, and forever lost my dignity belting out “I Will Survive” for the cameras. But, I got to wear a broadcast mic, which was pretty cool.

Production and Interactives

Dana’s in charge of making all the parts of the pop-up fit together. Literally, as production specialist, that’s her job. She makes sure measurements are right, that graphics are where they need to be relative to reveals — that sort of thing. She’s also developing an iPhone quiz app for the exhibit. I’ve helped her keep all the quiz info accurate, and I’ve also worked to provide Interactives Specialist Becca with facts for the pop-up reveals. Becca is putting the finishing touches on a Zombie Apocalypse game that pits human survival skills and adaptability against those of the zombie hordes.


Quinn graciously moved from the Content Team to assist the Outreach team. She has been working hard to overcome the frustrations of working with the software program Pages and develop a flyer about the exhibit, which she will give to some of the schools and other locations we are considering as possible venues for the exhibition.

A tight schedule, uncooperative software, and the harsh reality of limited panel text are just some of the adversities the Youth Design Team faced this past week. But we overcame, pushing aside obstacles with the determination, veracity and brute strength of a 42-foot, 7-ton Cretaceous theropod! We will survive!