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A penguin looks into a vast pool. There is a pair of dolphins swimming to his left.

A Shedd Aquarium penguin takes in the sights inside the lakefront attraction, which is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Shedd let some of its penguins roam and observe other exhibit areas in the empty aquarium.

Shedd Aquarium

Penguins And SUE The T-Rex Roaming Closed Museums, Adored By All

The mania started with a Shedd Aquarium penguin waddling around. Then, SUE the T-rex, “Chris” the curator and other Chicago museum figures got in the act to provide some relief to all the distressing news during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, the Shedd posted a video to Twitter of Wellington, one of its adorable rockhopper penguins, on a “field trip” walking around inside the lakefront aquarium, which is now closed to the public due to the virus outbreak.

The video went viral, generating thousands of likes and views and inspiring the Shedd to post more videos of penguins enjoying a run of the empty place. (Not to mention prompting a delightful re-viewing of a certain British actor struggling to say “penguin”—fast forward to 3:30.)

Over the next few days, other local museums that are also temporarily shut down decided to ride on the penguins’ coattails. The Field Museum let its famous Tyrannosaurus rex loose for a while — sort of.

The Adler Planetarium, not wanting to be left out but lacking an animal icon, let one of its staff members roam around.

Chris seems like a nice guy, but he can’t compete with little penguins or wacky dinos. The Shedd, buoyed by the outpouring of positive reactions to the penguin tour, took another of its mobile animals out and about—Tyson the porcupine!

In a move to keep up, the Museum of Science and Industry gave a nod to the Shedd’s small bird cuteness juggernaut using its baby chicks display.

Even the edgy Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago couldn’t resist the fun, posting: Once this is all over, we hope that @SUEtheTrex and Edward and Annie the penguins from the @shedd_aquarium continue their tours!

That elicited a reply from the Field: What’s your theropod policy, @mcachicago? Asking for a friend.

Read more: All of WBEZ’s coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak in Chicago and the region.

Not every well-known Chicago museum was joining in the fun this week. The Art Institute of Chicago didn’t tweet any image of a late-18th Century penguin masterpiece or a video of someone running around the European galleries in a Rembrandt outfit.

But the Art Gallery of Mississauga in Ontario, Canada, spotted the Shedd penguins and got in the game.

The penguin mania spread to one cultural institution in Chicago that isn’t a museum. The venerable Music Box Theatre couldn’t resist, although its own “penguin” is unlikely to get an offer to move to the Shedd.

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