BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Enough diamonds for the most glittery of benefit nights, new faces in elegant black tie, international celebrities, deserved awards, and celebration of rare collections: A Night at The Museum presented by the Women’s Board of the Field Museum, headed by Sandra Deromedi, proved recently that virtual galas have come a long way. So far, in fact, that supporters of the Field donated nearly $2 million for essential unrestricted funds by the time Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, brought the online gala to a close.
Dr. Julian Siggers, the Field Museum’s new president and CEO, opened the high-security gem vault for the occasion, telling Collection Manager Jim Holstein that a necklace of green diamonds was “about as blingy as it gets.” The Museum’s newest curator, Dr. Jingmai O’Connor, presented rare preserved reptiles, followed by Dr. Bill Parkinson, Curator of Anthropology, in the oversized anthropology storage, pointing out a canoe sailed all the way from Brazil for the Field collections. Ichthyologist Dr. Leslie de Sousa and Cephalopod expert Dr. Janet Voight debated the merits of fish versus octopus.
Connie and Dennis Keller received the Marshall Field V Award for Distinguished Leadership with past recipients Judy Block and Marshall Field over Zoom, along with Field President Emeritus Richard Lariviere and surprise visits from the Keller’s children. Connie Keller is a past chair of the Field’s Board of Trustees and a member of the Women’s Board.
Telling guests about her first trip to Tanzania to visit the wild chimpanzees, Dr. Goodall spoke of her Chicago connection, recalling a conservation conference here in 1986 that she said transformed her into an activist. The exhibition, On Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall will open at the Field in March of next year: “It contains a replica of the first wobbly tent my mother and I occupied in Tanzania and life-sized holograms of the chimpanzees,” she said.
The Field Associates young professionals group had their own EVOLVE after-party via Zoom, featuring interactive fun with Second City, Dr. O’Connor describing her 10 years of research in Beijing, Field Anthropology Chair Ryan Williams talking about the history of beer paired with a tasting by brewmaster Dan Whitely.
We talked afterwards with Women’s Board President Sandy Deromedi, who was putting her garden on Cape Cod to bed for the winter, about the event. Of its success, she shared, “We are ecstatic about the outcome. The Museum Trustees and the Women’s Board truly stepped up. I feel that everything about the Field is top notch, from a little memo to a virtual gala. Everyone is so smart and thorough. The museum has scientists on every continent who are making discoveries. In addition to be having its magnificent building and huge collections, it is a research institution.”
She continued, “In a virtual gala we can bring the world together. Last January, just before the pandemic, we traveled to the Galapagos. We were delighted that the naturalist that was our guide in Ecuador attended the gala, along with our friends and family in Colorado, California and other locales.”
Growing up just outside New York City, Deromedi fell in love with its Museum of Natural History as a child, particularly its dioramas. So it is no wonder that those are among her favorite parts of the Field’s collection, followed by the dinosaurs, which she describes as “smiling at the fact hat they once walked the earth and now are a part of a virtual gala.” She and her husband, Roger, are both equally awaiting the new Cyrus Tang Hall of China and she counts the Native American rooms and the Grainger Hall of Gems among other must-sees at the museum.
The Field reopened at the end of July, allowing you to see all of your favorites, with the utmost attention to safety: limiting capacity, requiring masks for staff and visitors alike, and one-way paths are among its many measures keeping your visit a healthy one.
As of November 4, the YouTube broadcast and recording has received 885 views.