review by Tanya Johnson
The Art of the Motorcycle
The Chicago Exhibit–Field Museum
Oh the excitement…72 motorcycles from past to present all on display. at The Field Museum of Chicago. Needless to say I contacted a couple friends, found us cheap airfare and accommodations, and had us entering the exhibit two hours after we arrived in Chicago. I wasn’t about to give anyone the chance to think twice about heading to The Windy City in the middle of winter. Nothing was going to keep me from this exhibit, plus those Chicago Museums go all out for special shows. In fact our tickets arrived with a confirmation/information letter that stated both museum coat checks were equipped to accommodate motorcycle helmets, equipment, or clothing. I remind you the exhibit was not held during riding season.
We arrived in Chicago, checked into our hotel, and briskly walked over to The Field Museum. If you’ve never been to the place I recommend you check out the movie The Relic to get an idea of what it’s like, grand in every way. I was ecstatic by this time thinking about seeing all those classic bikes in person. As we entered the museum we noticed kids getting their picture taken on an old Norton in front a blue sky back drop. I’m sure Anna and John were wondering if I would make them stand in line for a photo op. I figured we’d get enough pictures upstairs. We checked our watches, wandered around looking at various stuffed creatures for awhile then headed for the Motorcycles.
“Walk right in” the man told us as I approached grinning from ear to ear. Just as we entered the exhibit I took a moment to read the messages posted on the wall. What was this? My heart sank. NO PHOTOGRAPHS. Wait a minute here. Classic Triumphs, Moto Guzzis, Ducatis, plus the motorcycle with sidecar that held a family of six and I’m not allowed to snap any photos with my trusty little Minolta!? Well! It took several minutes of standing in front of the first couple of bikes before I cooled off a bit, which wasn’t easy considering the actual temperature of the exhibit hall. The display of the bikes started with a good idea. Dates, quotes, and era information on the walls. We tend to forget exactly what went on and when during the course of history, and to think “motorized bikes” were in amongst so many of the those historic inventions and struggles. Unfortunately the exhibit could have used a larger area to free up some walking space and to possibly lower the temperature to make the “No Photographs” experience a little more bearable.
We spent quite a bit of time pointing, and marveling at some of the older motorcycles. Some of our favorite bikes included the 1914 St. Paul Cyclone Board Track Racer, the 1948 Indian, a six cylinder motorized bicycle, a classic Ducati, that motorcycle with sidecar that held a family of six, and a funky gel-tank on a Triumph I believe.
We hated to leave the larger exhibit room holding all the old classics to enter the smaller, final portion of the show that held the modern day bikes. Today’s bikes may be faster and flashier but I would still rather spend an afternoon checking out the old classics. So this is my plea: If you have any push, pull, or simply the financial ability to help ensure The Art of the Motorcycle makes it to Minnesota please contact Judy Neiswander at 651-644-2992. Thanks, you won’t regret it!