Is “Pompeii: The Exhibition” Good for Kids? We Explored the Museum of Science and Industry’s New Exhibit to Find Out

Museums and Zoos

The Museum of Science and Industry’s new exhibit Pompeii: The Exhibition brings guests back to the ancient Roman city like never before. Filled with over 155 artifacts including weaponry, frescos, statues, fountain spouts, dining utensils, and more, visitors are immersed in the culture of Pompeii that was destroyed by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. These items were preserved in the volcanic ash that buried them. As more items are recovered, historians are better able to understand the cultural of ancient Rome. This museum exhibit is separated into two galleries, so make sure to visit the second hall on your trip through Pompeii: The Exhibition.

We saw a replica of a Pompeiian home, casts of bodies found in the ash, and watched a 4D simulation of the volcano eruption. While full of works of art and other artifacts, each gallery of this exhibit featured an interactive area with museum staff. In the first gallery, we tried to reassemble pieces of a broken fresco, just as archeologists are being asked to do with their findings.

In the second gallery, we created our own city near volcanoes and learned about modern-day instruments now used to detect volcanic activity.

An important note to visitors: there is a small room at the end of the first gallery that is not suitable for children. There is signage warning visitors, but any one not interested in viewing this adults-only content can simply walk past the room.

If your child is sensitive to topics about natural disasters and death, I would discuss some of these ideas in advance. Before we went, I read the description of the exhibit on MSI’s website to my children, so they were prepared for some of the information we read throughout the exhibit hall.

This exhibit is a great stop for the tween and teenage history lovers in your family (and adults, too!). My 9-year old learned more about ancient Roman culture and their rituals, saw works of art, and compared their drinking vessels to the ones we use today. We spoke about modern technology and how these developments are intended to help us understand and prepare for natural disasters.

Free Days at Museum of Science and Industry Chicago

MSI offers free days throughout the year for Illinois residents with ID. Dates subject to change, so please check their website before heading to the city. The following dates have been announced for the remainder of 2023:

  • March: 1, 6, 14
  • April : 18, 22
  • May: 4, 9, 17, 18
  • June: 1, 6, 7
  • August: 22, 28, 29
  • September: 5, 6, 11, 12, 15, 18, 19, 20, 26
  • October: 4, 5, 9, 16, 17
  • November: 1, 8

Advance ticket reservations are no longer required, but you can book tickets online at to ensure admission. Visit procedures and safety details can be found at Note: on Illinois resident free days, admission to most permanent and some temporary exhibits is included. For special exhibits, such as “Pompeii: The Exhibition”, an additional fee is charged.

Photo courtesy of the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Best Exhibits at Museum of Science and Industry

While you are there, be sure to check out our favorites, all included in the basic museum entry ticket! Go to the next page to keep reading.

Science Storms

Located on the Main Floor, you won’t be able to miss this one!
This area is full of interactive exhibits, like changing the frequency and amplitude of waves and seeing the result of your choices on a water table, demonstrations and interactive enormous tornado, real, live man-made lightening on the ceiling, and more.

Genetics and the Baby Chick Hatchery

Located on the Main Level next to the Transportation Gallery, where the planes are hanging from the ceiling.
An average of 15 chicks hatch every day at the museum this time of year.

Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze

Located next to Coal Mine on the Main Level.
Be sure to visit the kiosk next to the exhibit early… the mirror maze is included in Museum Entry, however you need a timed ticket.

photo courtesy of Museum of Science and Industry

Located on the Main Floor behind both the Extreme Ice and Earth Revealed exhibits.
My kids thought this was really fascinating and spent a long time whispering to each other.

The Great Train Story

Located in the Transportation Gallery area on the Main Level.
Watch the trains travel around the city and countryside and have the opportunity to press buttons to raise and lower.

Swiss Jolly Ball

Located on the Lower Level by the main eating area and next to the cafe.
Although this is the busiest seating area (there are other places to eat lunch if you brought one), it’s entertaining to watch the ball make it’s way around the found-object machine.

Farm Tech

Located on the Lower Level next to the Swiss Jolly Ball.
Explore the technology involved in producing the world’s food. Ride in farming vehicles, test your cow-milking skills, and learn about how food goes from the farm, to your kitchen table.

U-505 Submarine

Discover the epic story of the capture of the U-505, a World War II submarine alongside the sub itself. On your way to the exhibit visit U-505 Submarine: 75 Stories to see photographs and artifacts that detail the early history of the sub and lives of German and American sailors.

Interactive Screen

Located on the Lower Level by the Circus exhibit.
Strike different poses to catch falling colored particles.

Giant Dome Theater

Enjoy the Museum’s capacity-controlled five-story wraparound domed theater to watch films about Everest, Michael Jordan to the Max, Passport to the Universe, or Volcanos.

Extreme Ice

This review originally published in March, 2017 and was written by Annie Tandy.

Extreme Ice shows how glaciers are melting around the world through beautiful photographs and time-lapse videography. The images featured in Extreme Ice were captured over a multi-year period by photographer James Balog. Balog and his team documented 24 glaciers from around the globe. Scenes depicted in the exhibit include the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland, the Columbia Glacier in Alaska, Grinnell Glacier in Montana’s Glacier National Park, Mount Everest in Nepal, and many more.

Birthday Canyon, Greenland Ice Sheet, Greenland, 28 June 2009, Adam LeWinter surveys Birthday Canyon
Black deposit in bottom of channel is cryoconite. Birthday Canyon is approximately 150 feet deep.

The beginning of the exhibit features a seven minute video about how climate change is causing dramatic glacier melt. There are several examples demonstrating how rapidly it is occurring around the world.

After the video you are free to walk around to view various videos and screens, one of which gives ideas as to what we can do to help the environment. Another has interactive maps, showcasing the potential impact of coastal flooding. You can also explore the equipment that the team used to document the glacier changes on another screen.

More to Do at MSI

One of MSI’s most popular field trip programs is now open to the public. Learning Labs are facilitated, dynamic experiences that provide guests the opportunity to discover science as they use real tools and techniques. Usually reserved for school groups, Learning Labs are capacity controlled and can now be added to any visit Wednesday-Sunday:

  • Crime Lab: Explore forensic science and learn how to analyze evidence like fingerprints. 
  • Engineering Design: Building Bridges: Become a civil engineer and use the engineering design cycle as you design, build and test bridges. 

Past Exhibit Reviews

Go to the next page to keep reading.

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