The Field Museum was incorporated in the State of Illinois on September 16, 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago with its purpose the "accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, and the preservation and exhibition of objects illustrating art, archaeology, science and history." In 1905, the Museum's name was changed to Field Museum of Natural History to honor the Museum's first major benefactor, Marshall Field, and to better reflect its focus on the natural sciences. In 1921 the Museum moved from its original location in Jackson Park to its present site on Chicago Park District property near downtown where it is part of a lakefront Museum Campus that includes the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. These three institutions are regarded as among the finest of their kind in the world and together attract more visits annually than any comparable site in Chicago.
The Field Museum was founded to house the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. These objects form the core of the Museum's collections which have grown through world-wide expeditions, exchange, purchase, and gifts to more than twenty million specimens. The collections form the foundation of the Museum's exhibition, research and education programs, which are further informed by a world-class natural history library of more than 250,000 volumes.
As an educational institution the Field Museum offers multiple opportunities for both informal and more structured public learning. Exhibits remain the primary means of informal education, but throughout its history the Museum has supplemented this approach with innovative educational programs. The Harris Loan Program, for example, begun in 1912, provides educational outreach to children, bringing artifacts, specimens, audiovisual materials, and activity kits to Chicago area schools. The Department of Education, begun in 1922, offers a changing program of classes, lectures, field trips, museum overnights and special events for families, adults and children. Professional symposia and lectures, such as the annual A. Watson Armour III Spring Symposium, presents the latest scientific results to the international scientific community as well as the public at large.
The Museum's curatorial and scientific staff in the departments of Anthropology, Biology, Geology, and Zoology conducts basic research in the fields of systematic biology and anthropology, and also has responsibility for collections management, and collaboration in public programs with the Departments of Education and Exhibits. Since its founding the Field Museum has been an international leader in evolutionary biology and paleontology, and archaeology and ethnography, and has long maintained close links, including joint teaching, students, seminars, with local universities - particularly the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.