John G. Shedd Aquarium – Chicago

03 Apr, 2011

I recently re-visited the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago while in town for a meeting.  Our group was given a VIP tour of the facility by their staff.  It was very interesting for me to return, as I worked at the Shedd from 1985 until 1989.  Although I’ve been back for various visits during the ensuing 22 years, I was simply amazed at the changes which have taken place in the past few years.  Other than the landmark architecture of the building itself, I had a difficult time identifying ANYTHING that looked the same as when I worked there.  They have completely re-done the entire facility and it looked great!  This is also borne out by the increase they have seen in their attendance:  from around 850,000 people per year when I worked there to well over 2 million visitors a year now.

The iconic front entrance to the Shedd Aquarium

The iconic front entrance to the Shedd Aquarium

When you visit the Shedd, always take some time to admire the beautiful details such as this octopus lamp.

When you visit the Shedd, always take some time to admire the beautiful details such as this octopus lamp.

Here is a snapshot of their coral reef exhibit - where I got my start in public aquariums as their reef tank diver back in 1985.

Here is a snapshot of their coral reef exhibit – where I got my start in public aquariums as their reef tank diver back in 1985.

Here is the Shedd's Amazon Rising exhibit - where they modified the old fashioned "tanks in a row" exhibits of their older galleries into an open, modern exhibit.

Here is the Shedd’s Amazon Rising exhibit – where they modified the old fashioned “tanks in a row” exhibits of their older galleries into an open, modern exhibit.

I saw half a dozen employees that worked there 20+ years ago, and it was fun catching up with what they’ve been doing.  Next year, the Shedd will be hosting the Regional Aquatics Workshop (the RAW meeting I discussed in my previous post).  Public aquarists from North America and around the world will spend a week there learning more about public aquariums.

If you want to visit a world class aquarium (but one with historic roots and classical architecture), be sure to see the Shedd Aquarium!

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About the author

Jay Hemdal
Jay Hemdal

Jay Hemdal has worked at public aquariums for over 30 years. He is currently curator of fishes and invertebrates for a large U.S. zoo / aquarium and is actively involved in the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums). He has authored over 200 magazine articles and seven books since he graduated college in 1981.

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