U.S. Military Opening a Museum in The Loop

National Museum of Health + Medicine Chicago

It’s a little off the tourist path, but a new museum in the Loop will be quite a draw to people in the medical profession, and those who enjoy being a “nutrient.”

A 25,000 square-foot building down the street from City Hall is going to be a Chicago branch of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, which is owned by the United States Department of Defense.  The Chicago outlet will be called The National Museum of Health + Medicine Chicago (NMH+MC) and be located at 175 West Washington Street.

To quote from its brochure:

The National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. is one of America’s oldest and most respected institutions—and also one of its most forward-looking.

With roots in the 19th century—collections include remnants of the remains of Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, and other key figures from the Civil War—NMHM is at the forefront of a 21st Century exploration of the cutting edge of museum science. The museum’s extensive historical, anatomical, and embryology collections are now in the process of being digitized and made available online, which will be of incalculable value to medical researchers, pathologists, clinicians, forensic scientists, and scholars in various other fields throughout the world.

An effort is underway to create a central repository for the museum’s digital collections, data archives and related computational resources at a new satellite location in Chicago. The National Museum of Health + Medicine Chicago (NMH+MC) will function as a bridge between the physical and virtual realms. NMH+MC will feature interactive exhibits where visitors can explore biomedical information in new ways and will act as a home for a team of information scientists who will advance the museum’s research initiatives.

The brochure goes on to note that Chicago was chosen for this museum because the museum regularly works with the Field Museum, the Argonne National Laboratory, and other local institutions.  Plus, it helps that this is the largest city not on the east or west coasts.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture is doing the design for the renovation of the 1933 office building into a museum and archive.  If memory serves (as it does so rarely these days) this was formerly the headquarters of a musicians union.  Here are the highlights of the new building:

  • Wrap-around projection screen that changes.
  • Rooftop observation deck and cafe.
  • SuperCreepyGreen™: The building and its occupants will generate energy.
  • A holodeck virtual reality chamber where researchers can interact with virtual patients and specimens.
  • Fully buzzword-compliant: Green roof, sustainability, adaptive reuse, portals, virtual spaces, museum without walls, community outreach, architectural dialogue, vision for tomorrow, Facebook.

This will be the second display screen placed on a building near City Hall in the last few years.  The other one is the big TV monitor hanging on Block37 that was half-assed by CBS and never finished (see: Opportunity Missed: Block37).  A building-sized video screen for Michigan Avenue was recently denied by the city (see: Burberry to Move Across Michigan Avenue While A Chicago-Safe Flagship is Built).

Many floors, walls, and ceilings will be high-tech, as well.  They’ll be able to display information, and be totally reconfigurable as needs change.  Visitors can wear headphones with RFID chips in them so the walls can sense they’re nearby and change what they’re displaying.

As for SuperCreepyGreen™: This means that people in the building will be harnessed to help power the building. They’ll be strapped down and their bodily fluids drained… The building will have kinetic energy harvesting technology, like gizmos under the floor that turn the force of your footsteps into electricity.

The cost for this high-tech wonderland?  A cool $45 million, with a goal of opening in Spring of 2015.

More information:




Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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1 Comment

  1. What will become of the exquisite 1933 art deco facade of this building which includes beautiful stone carvings of musicians, in line with its original use as home to the Chicago musicians union? It would be a terrible shame if Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the City of Chicago and her citizens would allow a historical building such as this one to be torn down. This building should be transformed back into a center to celebrate and promote the history and continuing life of music, musicians, and music lovers in Chicago. Chicago is, after all, one of the capitals and vibrant centers of American music–folk, jazz, blues, rock, gospel, and other musical art forms, as well as a meeting place for musicians, including those in traditional, classical and contemporary music, from around the United States and around the world. Chicago has a long history of great buildings that have been torn down in the name of “progress”. The National Museum of Health and Medicine should come to Chicago, but the City of Chicago should help the museum to find a location that will not demand the destruction of a historic Chicago building.

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