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Is This History or Is This Junk? Field Museum Experts Will ID Your Stuff

By Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | September 19, 2014 6:02am | Updated on September 19, 2014 7:43pm
 Field Museum scientists will analyze fossils, plants, rocks and pictures of critters, but asks that guests leave live or dead animals at home.
Field Museum scientists will analyze fossils, plants, rocks and pictures of critters, but asks that guests leave live or dead animals at home.
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MUSEUM CAMPUS — The Field Museum is out to solve a few mysteries.

From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 27, a team of staff scientists will be on hand for the Field's first "ID Day," an open call for visitors to bring in artifacts or specimens they'd like help identifying.

"We get calls throughout the year from people who have found things that they think might be something," said Emily Waldren, a spokeswoman for the museum. "Sometimes, our scientists have the time to take a look, but not always, which is a shame."

Lizzie Schiffman says you can bring in just about anything to the museum on Sept. 27, except roadkill:

The scientists all have varying specialties, but "are prepared to identify most specimens that the general public might find," Waldren said.

"This is a good way for people to have a one-on-one with a scientist about the rock you found that you think might be a fossil, or have someone tell you exactly what that seashell is that you found on vacation."

In addition to rocks, shells and fossils, the team is also available to identify living or dead animals, though they have a few parameters to keep visitors from bringing critters into the museum.

The "big thing is no 'roadkill' specimens, meaning no full bodies," Waldren said. "If you've found a feather, or by some luck a skull, you can bring that in, but not the full animal."

For amphibians, reptiles, mammals and other live (or formerly living) animals, the Field asks guests to bring in photos for the team to analyze. Dead bugs are the exception — as long as they're "in sealed plastic containers, like a peanut butter jar," Waldren said. 

Museum scientists won't provide appraisals on the value of the objects, but the Field Museum website has information about organizations that will.

Guests without mystery objects can also get in on the fun: The museum will have a temporary display of artifacts and specimens and a photo booth set up for the occasion. Sept. 27 is a discount day at the museum, so basic admission is free to all guests.

If it's successful, "ID Day" could become a recurring event at the museum.

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