Upcoming Speaker: Liam Ford on his book Soldier Field: A Stadium and Its City

Friend of the Loyola Public History Lab, Liam Ford will be giving a talk on his book Soldier Field: A Stadium and It’s City at the Roger Park Public Library (6907 N. Clark Street) on Saturday April 19, 2014 at 1 PM. The event is sponsored by both the Chicago Public Library: Rogers Park Branch and the Rogers Park / West Ridge Historical Society – the Public History Lab’s partner organization. Following the talk, there will be a reception at the Rogers Park / West Ridge Historical Society two blocks away at 1447 West Morse.

41wz-ndEOdL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Sport fans nationwide know Soldier Field as the home of the Chicago Bear, but few realize that the stadium has been much more than that. Liam T.A. Ford will explore how this amphitheater  evolved from a public war memorial into a majestic arena that helped define Chicago.

Published in 2009 by the University of Chicago Press as part of its Chicago Visions and Revisions Series, Soldier Field came from Ford’s experience reporting on the stadium’s controversial 2003 renovation for the Chicago Tribune. As he tells it, the tale of Soldier Field truly is the story of Chicago, filled with political intrigue and civic pride. Designed by Holabird and Roche, Soldier Field arose through a serendipitous combination of local tax dollars, City Beautiful boosterism, and the machinations of Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson. The result was a stadium that stood at the center of Chicago’s political, cultural, and sporting life for nearly sixty years before the arrival of Walter Payton and William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

We hope to see you there on Saturday afternoon!

 

Field Notes: The Public History Lab [Roundtable]

For the 10th Annual Loyola History Graduate Student Conference, the LUC Public History Committee will host a roundtable on “Social Justice, Sustainability and Activism in Public History.” This is a post that introduces a case study on the topic. The Committee welcomes participation both online and at the conference. If you have an example of Social Justice, Sustainability or Activism in Public History, please feel free to mention it as a comment on the blog, or contact the blog editors to request the opportunity to author a guest post. For more information on the Conference and the Roundtable–to be held November 9 at Loyola’s downtown Water Tower Campus – click here.

Image

Continue reading

Skynet down at Jewel-Osco: The Grocer’s Progress

Illinois-based supermarket chain Jewel-Osco has announced that it will begin eliminating self-checkout lanes at a select number of their stores and plans to cut more in the future. They claim the major reasons for the shift are theft and customer satisfaction. The devices include glitchy/insulting weight sensors that prevent customers from bagging items that have not been scanned. In my limited experience with them (full disclosure: I am a conscientious objector Luddite) these marvels of labor-saving technology counter-intuitively require a living employee to approve and complete my transactions. Seemingly, the mere act of scanning and bagging groceries triggers these machines to suspect my character and withhold services until human reinforcements arrive. Inevitably, I turn indignant and fantasize about slamming a 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes through the screen and inciting other patrons to do likewise. Minutes later, an exasperated employee arrives, allowing me to complete my purchase without actually searching any of my bags, but not before my daydream has escalated to a Terminator-esque war against Skynet.

Image

 

Continue reading

Selling the Value of History [Roundtable]

For the 9th Annual Loyola History Graduate Student Conference, the LUC Public History Committee will host a roundtable on “Revisionist Public History.” This is a post that introduces a case study on the topic. The Committee welcomes participation both online and at the conference. If you have an example of “Revisionist” Public History, please feel free to mention it as a comment on the blog, or contact the blog editors to request the opportunity to author a guest post. For more information on the Conference and the Roundtable–to be held November 3 at Loyola’s downtown Water Tower Campus–click here.

Is history just for Trivial Pursuit?

Most historians are well aware of history’s value. Professors clarify its value the first day of every 100-level history course.  Most value statements generally boil down to “knowing history will make you a better person.” For most people, knowing history does not translate directly into a job or profit, however even a passing knowledge improves their quality of life. History gives a better understanding of the cultures, cities, states, nations as well as the world we live in. It allows us to better understand other people and makes us better citizens. History also makes for better humor. While this is all relative, at scale I believe that the more people that pursue learning about the past, the better off humanity will be in the present and the future.

Continue reading

Building Heritage

While working  at the St. Croix National Park Service I have had the opportunity to watch the park administration help a budding friends organization create a National Heritage Area. While you can read more at the NPS website, basically a National Heritage Area is cohesive region that shares common natural, cultural and historic resources that are nationally important. While NHAs originally had some federal funding  for administration and promotion when they first came around in the 1980s, that aid has dried up. The driving force behind an NHAs success in generating a heritage tourism economy supported by a community, telling a cohesive story about its past to outsiders.

Predictably there are a lot of ins-and-outs to the process especially in getting the NHA approved by Congress, but before that and by far the most fascinating part of the process is community building. This is the stage where the St. Croix Heritage Initiative  is at. The St. Croix Valley Foundation, and the St. Croix River Association, along with several other community partners began initial planning  two-years ago and last winter they began a campaign to generate community interest in the concept. Hiring an outside community-building consultation firm (I know, right?) to facilitate the process, the movement became the Heritage Initiative, building a web 2.0 site to allow participation and launching a feasibility study through public “Discovery Workshops.”

Using the St. Croix Watershed as the study area (and a natural starting point for creating a Heritage Area centered on a river), the Heritage Initiative held these workshops in 10 of the  11 counties that make up the watershed. I attended one of these workshops in late May as part of my job with the Park Service.

Continue reading