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.
Penguins in the Amazon?! 🐧🌴— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 15, 2020
Some of the penguins went on a field trip to meet other animals at Shedd. Wellington seemed most interested in the fishes in Amazon Rising! The black-barred silver dollars also seemed interested in their unusual visitor. pic.twitter.com/KgYWsp5VQD
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.)
While this may be a strange time for us, these days feel normal for animals at Shedd. Our caregivers are constantly providing new experiences for the animals to explore and express their natural behaviors with. Let us know what penguin activities you would like to see! (3/3) pic.twitter.com/ftlow7iPHl— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 16, 2020
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.
We may not have penguins 🐧 or a SUE 🦖, but we do have Chris, who normally takes care of our collections objects in the dark. For a special treat, we let him out to explore the museum. pic.twitter.com/sg88TQhbD7— Adler Planetarium (@AdlerPlanet) March 19, 2020
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!
The penguins aren’t the only animals taking field trips around the aquarium! Tyson the prehensile-tailed porcupine visited the penguin habitat while munching on a hard biscuit, which helps file down his constantly-growing teeth. pic.twitter.com/X2PpEHt1L3— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 19, 2020
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.
Between penguins and dinosaurs, birds are sure having a moment. Spend this #FirstDayOfSpring inside the hatchery with our baby chicks, who are too young to let run around the Museum. pic.twitter.com/AEr67veNm4— MSI Chicago (@msichicago) March 19, 2020
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.
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.
Unlike the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, we have no penguins to set free in the gallery, but we do have a very cute penguin in our collection! You may have seen it, it is on a sign guiding you towards us! Tom Dean, “How to Draw a Penguin”, serigraph, ink. 1999. pic.twitter.com/xFImpy37G2— AGM (@AGMengage) March 20, 2020
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.