At Night, Chicago's Science Museum Is Like 'A Cathedral' : The Two-Way Kate McGroarty is winding up a "month at the museum" -- a stay organizers hope will draw attention to science.
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At Night, Chicago's Science Museum Is Like 'A Cathedral'

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At Night, Chicago's Science Museum Is Like 'A Cathedral'

At Night, Chicago's Science Museum Is Like 'A Cathedral'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Over the past three weeks, Kate McGroarty has slept in a German submarine and in a giant hamster wheel. She had breakfast with the man who flew to the moon, twice. She harvested honey from a beehive.

Kate McGroarty is living in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry for a month. She beat out more than 1,500 other applicants to win the Month at the Museum Contest. And she joins us now from the clear glass cube inside the museum, where she's sometimes on display.

Kate McGroarty, are you getting used to living your life in public that way?

Ms. KATE MCGROARTY (Roommate, Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry_): Yes, it's a little more natural Day 24 than it was Day one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Well, what's the idea here? What's your role in your month at the museum?

Ms. MCGROARTY: Sure. My official job title is Roommate. I prefer to think of myself as an explorer, an observer, a reporter and an ambassador.

BLOCK: An ambassador for all the folks who are coming to the museum.

Ms. MCGROARTY: Exactly, yes. And all the people who are not local or used to be local and now have moved away and can't make it back to the museum. I have this big wonderful community of followers online.

BLOCK: So you're getting to see cool stuff that the rest of us would never get to see.

Ms. MCGROARTY: Yes. That's also true. The other day I walked around on the wing of the 727 airplane.

BLOCK: On the wing? Fun.

Ms. MCGROARTY: Yup. Put me in a harness, got me a grove lift up there and I just hung out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: And how was sleeping on the U-boat?

Ms. MCGROARTY: It was great. It's not haunted, as far as I know. The bunks are perfectly Kate-sized. So I slept with my feet flexed, but I thought it was kind of cozy.

BLOCK: Now, your background, you're not a science geek, right? You're a teacher, a theater artist.

Ms. MCGROARTY: Well, I was formerly not a science geek. I would definitely put myself in that category now.

BLOCK: You are now.

Ms. MCGROARTY: Yes, absolutely. I have a theater background. So I've been interested in directing, writing, teaching, performing, kind of the whole fine arts side of things.

BLOCK: Kate, did you ever read the book when you were a kid, "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler?" The two kids who go and live at the Metropolitan Museum.

Ms. MCGROARTY: Oh, you bet I did. Right. Luckily I don't have to take baths in the fountain.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: That was the fun part. I'm thinking of you sort of in that context, late at night, in the museum, when it's closed and everybody's gone home, what's that like?

Ms. MCGROARTY: It varies from night to night because there are so many organizations that rent out the space. For example, last weekend, I was trying to read in my bedroom upstairs, which we call the nest, and there was a live band downstairs for a charity event. And I just said to myself, why would I be reading alone when there is a band playing in my living room? So I went and I crashed that party. It was really fun.

There's nights like that and then there are nights when it's completely still and completely quiet. And it feels, honestly, it feels a lot like being at a cathedral. It's very calm and beautiful. I love it.

BLOCK: And will you wander around the museum by yourself late at night?

Ms. MCGROARTY: Absolutely. Yeah. You know, I take strolls in between writing blog posts. Or I actually go jogging through the museum late at night.

BLOCK: Get a little exercise in.

Ms. MCGROARTY: Yes, get a little exercise in.

(Soundbite of low whistle)

BLOCK: Well, what did I just hear behind you there, Kate?

Ms. MCGROARTY: Oh, that was the coalmine.

BLOCK: The coalmines?

Ms. MCGROARTY: Yes, our coalmine whistles.

BLOCK: There's a coalmine in the museum?

Ms. MCGROARTY: Oh, yes, there's a coalmine. It's one of the first exhibits to open.

BLOCK: It's right there behind - by your queue?

Ms. MCGROARTY: Well, it's on the other end of the rotunda. But, I mean, the ceilings are so high, sound really travels in here.

BLOCK: Yeah, I bet. I bet. Well, Kate, enjoy your last week in the museum. Sounds fun.

Ms. MCGROARTY: Well, thank you so much.

BLOCK: Kate McGroarty, who is living inside Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry for a month.

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