Remarkably, Dr. Jane Goodall revolutionized the way scientists study the natural world, and she challenged how people picture scientists, both in terms of research techniques and gender roles in the field. How did this woman who has had a profound impact on the field of animal behavioral research, the role of women in research and on the world get to be “Jane”? Find out on May 21 as the Field Museum opens their newest special exhibition, Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall, exploring the life and legacy of Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, and UN Messenger of Peace. Produced by the National Geographic Society in partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute, the exhibition explores Dr. Goodall’s life from her early years as an intrepid young woman with a dream to learn about animals in Africa, to her years establishing herself as a renowned scientist in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, to her present role as an activist, mentor and advocate for creating a better world for all life on Earth.
I had the privilege of previewing this exhibition. Just being back at the Field Museum in person for the first time in a year and a half was a treat. This exhibition is spectacular and should be seen by young and old before it leaves on September 8, 2021. Special effects were captivating, compelling and interactive. I felt as though I was almost part of her life, cheering her on as her life moved closer to her dream. Toward the end of the exhibition, there is a hologram-like projection where Jane tells some of her stories which are depicted on large screens on either side of her. I just wanted to hug her.
In the last room dealing with conservation, there is a video that I almost missed. I hope no one visiting the exhibition fails to see this. It is beautiful and inspirational.
“Becoming Jane gives such a personal look at Dr. Goodall,” says Jaap Hoogstraten, the Field Museum’s director of exhibitions. “She’s a figure that’s changed the way that we see animals and inspired countless people to help protect our planet, and we’re excited to bring her story, and some of her personal belongings, to the Field.”
I had the opportunity of speaking with Emily Parr, the project manager of this exhibition. She related that trying to mount the exhibition which was shipped from the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. during the pandemic presented many challenges during the year when it was put in place at the Field. Vaccinations, masks, distancing and ultimately an amazing opportunity for visitors.
Highlights of the exhibition include some of Dr. Goodall’s childhood belongings, including a beloved stuffed monkey, interspersed with stories about her as a budding naturalist, studying a chicken coop at age four. The exhibition also features augmented reality interactives that invite visitors to try their hand at chimpanzee vocalizations, a hologram-like projection of Dr. Goodall sharing her memories of living among the chimpanzees, and a replica of her field research tent.
“Scientific institutions all over the world, including the Field Museum, are indebted to Jane Goodall– her approach to animal behavior research and the immersive study of animals in their natural habitats changed the way we learn about nature,” says Abigail Derby Lewis, an ecologist at the Field Museum and the exhibition’s content advisor at the Field. “As we work to protect the natural world from climate change and habitat destruction, Jane Goodall’s legacy is ever more relevant, and we’re excited to share that legacy with our visitors in such a fun, meaningful way.”
Widely known for her innovative approach to animal behavior research, Dr. Goodall traveled to what is now Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park and immersed herself in the natural habitat of wild chimpanzees. Her work studying the lives of chimpanzees in the wild captured the imagination of the world. Rather than seeing the animals as subjects, she came to know them as individuals with personalities and emotions—a notion once rejected by the scientific world, yet now considered revolutionary. Her story—one of fearless determination, curiosity, the pursuit of knowledge and a passionate love of the natural world—has resonated with generations of people around the globe.
“Jane Goodall has been inspiring National Geographic audiences, young and old, for over half a century,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of public programming at the National Geographic Society. “This exhibition allows us to experience her amazing life story in a highly personal and powerful way. Through immersive media, authentic scenics, and interactives, this exhibition takes visitors into the field and around the world with Jane, walking in her shoes and experiencing her powerful message of hope firsthand.”
The exhibition will run through September 6, 2021, presented in English and with a Spanish translation booklet. Admission will be included with the museum upgraded ticket. Becoming Jane is organized and traveled by the National Geographic Society in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Society.