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Storylines

Introduction

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On the far southeast side of Chicago, the Calumet River meets Lake Michigan in a dramatic landscape of neighborhoods, wetlands, bridges, factories, derelict industrial sites, and waste landfills.

 

 

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The area was once one of the largest steel producing regions in the world. As the mills closed, starting in the 1980s, area residents began donating objects that were meaningful to them to the Southeast Historical Museum. Together, this collection of objects offers a window onto the shared history of a diverse community - a history that many felt was disappearing.

 

Rather than leaving those objects on the Museum’s shelves, this project revisits them, and asks why people cared about and saved them. The storylines that follow intertwine these objects with the words of residents drawn from the Museum’s oral history collection and additional research. In doing so, they create larger stories that capture the lived experiences of residents, immigrants, former workers, and activists.

 

The first two storylines explore the history of Mexican-American immigration in the region and the nationally-known labor event known as the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937. Two in-progress storylines examine the impact of the steel mill closings, as well as the legacy of environmental pollution and the activism it created.

 

These storylines ask: can conversations sparked by saved objects and the stories we tell about them build connections across generations, groups, and geographic regions?

 

 

 

Mexican-American Journeys

A story told through Museum objects saved by Southeast Chicago residents


Experience the Storyline

 

 

The Memorial Day Massacre

A story told through Museum objects saved by Southeast Chicago residents


Experience the Storyline