Southeast Chicago Historical Society&The Exit Zero Projectpresent

History is made through the objects we save and the stories we tell about them.

History is often told from the viewpoint of the powerful. For most of us, however, history is bound up with the everyday objects we save and the stories we tell that give them meaning. The Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project highlights a remarkable collection of objects, gathered and preserved by residents of a steel mill community as its industrial base was collapsing. Can looking more closely at what has been saved from the past spark conversations and make connections across generations, groups, and geographic regions? Can it help us better understand the present and reimagine the future?

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Digital Archive

The Objects We Save

The Southeast Chicago Historical Museum is located in a single room in a park fieldhouse on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was founded in the early 1980s by community volunteers.  The region had once been part of one of the largest industrial corridors in the world. But, as the local steel mills began to close, residents felt their history slipping away. They donated an astonishing array of artifacts to the Museum. These materials offer a unique window onto everyday life in an industrial community from the vantage point of residents themselves.

Today, the Museum remains a living, growing collection that reflects the region’s diverse communities.

Explore the Archive


The Stories We Tell

Historical artifacts only have meaning because of the stories we tell through and about them.

What kinds of stories emerge from the artifacts found in the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum? These storylines weave together artifacts, documentary film, and online storytelling. We take objects donated to the museum, explore their meaning for donors, and then interweave these stories with those relating to other Museum objects. Can these extended storylines become launching points for conversations about the nature of work, the value of community, and what it means to be an American? Can they help us reimagine our collective futures?

Experience the Storylines

To continue the conversation, visit the facebook page of the Southeast Chicago Historical Society. To get in touch, use the form below.