Emily: History of the World, Part I

[I’m really honored to feature Emily as my first guest writer. She first asked me to guest write for her blog, which prompted me to begin my own blog. Without her, the Museum Pinup wouldn’t exist.]

Hi everyone, I’m Emily from Thoroughly Modern Emily, and I’m over-the-moon excited to be here on Ani’s fabulous blog! Ani is one of my fave pinup pals – she’s as kind as she is smart and gorgeous! – and I was so delighted when she decided to start a style blog to showcase her amazing art-inspired outfits and share her incredible art-history knowledge with the world!

Like Ani, I’m also a museum pinup: I work at a natural history museum in Chicago. For this post, I decided to embrace the theme of this blog and take you inside the incredible world of life in a natural history museum.

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Ani could tell you what type of columns these are, but I can’t ;). I love where I work so much that I sometimes visit on the weekends!

Many people are surprised to learn that what they see in a museum is often only a small fraction of all the items in that museum’s collections. This is definitely true at the Field Museum: of the approximately 27 million specimens in our collections, less than 1% are on display at any given time! You might be wondering: what on earth do they do with the other 26,730,000 specimens?

The answer, folks, is research! The museum I work at is essentially a Cave of Wonders for scientists, many of whom travel from all over the world to do research there. The people who finally figured out what type of animal Illinois’ state fossil actually was? Museum scientists! The people who figured out that DDT was killing off peregrine falcons in the 1950s and 1960s? Collections of peregrine falcon eggs in natural-history museums helped them to unravel the mystery!

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These two signs are on either side of the door to the herbarium. Science humor is the best humor!

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I learn something new at work almost every single day, and it’s awesome. My other favorite perk of the job is being able to wear whatever I want to work. It’s basically the only workplace I’ve ever encountered where my Deadly Dames Venus flytrap dress is the most work-appropriate item in my wardrobe (owing to the massive botany collection, of course! Everyone on the bus made ‘Feed me, Seymour’ comments; my coworkers complimented my Dionaea muscipula print.)

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In putting together a natural history museum-themed outfit for this post, I decided to make reference to the four overarching scientific disciplines housed inside the museum: botany, anthropology, zoology, and geology. Botany was the easiest to represent, since hair flowers and pinup dresses go together like grilled and cheese. I chose my all-time favorite hair flower, the orange rose double from Daisy Jean Floral Designs.

The Nancy dress from Pinup Girl Clothing is one of my favorite silhouettes that they make; I have it in three difference colors! It was a challenge to choose between this peach Mary Blair butterfly print and my pink lemonade version, but in the end, I went with the butterfly print to represent zoology and pay homage to the enormous insects collection.

Fun fact: There are over 8 million specimens in the insects collection alone. The insects collection includes 19,000 of what’s called ‘bulk samples:’ jars that contain a variety of species collected in a single place at a single time. Bulk samples are incredibly valuable to scientists, who can learn a great deal about a particular ecosystem and the relations between species by studying them. I’ve been told that scientists frequently discover new species when they pop open a bulk sample to study something else, and it blows my mind to think about how many species we still know nothing about.

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Geology was a difficult choice, since the Museum has the largest collection of meteorites in a private institution and I have a soft spot in my heart for the many space-themed garments in my closet. I went back and forth on whether to swap the Nancy for one of my space skirts, but ultimately decided to honor the Museum’s most famous exhibit, Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex, with my Atomic Lucite brooch.

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Dinosaur brooches are among my most work-appropriate accessories.

Finding an anthropology-related piece was the hardest of them all. I racked my brain for ages, wondering if it was cheating to say that my engagement ring was a reference to anthropology, since I’m fascinated in cultural practices around courtship, before remembering my stroll through the Hall of the Pacific a few weeks ago. Many of the garments and artifacts on display were made out of plants, so I chose this vintage wicker purse as a nod to the woven bags used by many women all over the world.

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The next time you visit a natural history museum, I hope you will think a little about all the hard work that scientists put in to gather and study those specimens so that all of us can learn a little more about the 4 billion year-long story of Planet Earth. Where else in the world can you see rocks from the Moon, 8-carat diamonds, actual dinosaurs, long-extinct birds, plants from all over the planet, and an entire room of ceremonial malaggans, all under one roof?

It’s been an honor to share two of my favorite things with all of you, and I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into my world. Stop by on my Instagram (I’m @emily.hallock), Facebook, Twitter, or over on my blog and say hi!


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