Animal Crossing, Museums, and Space for Contemplation

I’ve never been interested in video games, and up until recently I didn’t even know how to turn on our household gaming console. Not long after the Illinois Stay-At-Home order, my husband suggested I try Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It was a perfect suggestion: building a delightful animated community has been an enjoyable escape. The game involves building a village from a handful of tents on an island, and I was surprised to see that one of the earliest public buildings that can be unlocked and built—even before shops and restaurants—was a museum.

Image 1: Cate and her husband on a date to an art exhibit.

The museum is hosted by a lone employee, a professorial owl who serves as curator (and apparently registrar, educator, administrator, guest services representative, collections manager, exhibit designer, et cetera). The Animal Crossing museum begins as a natural history museum, stocked with fossils, bugs, and fish that players collect. Later, the museum can be expanded to include an art wing.  I’ve been considering what it means for a game (especially one that has been mocked for its overly capitalistic trappings) to include a museum as one of the first buildings in a community.

At first, I found it frustrating—I felt obligated to stock the museum with fossils and fish, but I also knew I could sell them to pay off my unavoidable in-game debts. Choosing between a love of museums and financial solvency is something I have had to do too many times in my real life to feel it was fun in a game.

I’ve grown fonder of the museum and have contributed more to it as time has gone on (and my debts have been paid). As my island community as has grown, the museum remains the only true public building besides the home base “visitor services” center and built-in airport. I’ve yet to see an opportunity to build a school, library, post office, or any other public building.

The Animal Crossing museum is a flat version of a museum: it’s about collecting and displaying. This was my predominate thought until my nephews sent their avatars to my island. We talked on the phone together while our cartoon projections of ourselves ran around the screen. As this global pandemic has worn on, the few times I’ve played Animal Crossing with my nephews has been a perfect example of the social experiences we’ve all been having—separate but together, interacting virtually. My nephews are avid museum goers—curious about the world and their place in it– and right away they wanted to visit my digital museum.

Image 2: Cate and her nephew express delight and wonder in the natural history wing.

Walking around the dimly-lit halls with them, looking at animated fossils, I was reminded of the roles museums play beyond collecting and displaying. I began thinking about museums as space. Although I don’t know when my nephews or I will be able to visit a museum again, we were able to pretend for a little bit. As the realm of acceptable spaces for me to be has drastically shrunk, I’ve been reminded of why spaces are important.

Historians have long discussed the role or need for the real, the tangible, when we have the digital. Are digital exhibits just as informative as in person exhibits? Probably more so, because one can peruse them without the distractions and bodily discomfort of being in a museum space. Various email lists I am subscribed to have recently sent me articles hyping “10 Museum Exhibits You Can Visit Virtually” or other similar promises, and I’ve been interested in how many of these digital tours emphasize a feeling of walking though the museum space more than serving as a virtual exhibit. Without being there, one can imagine they are.

Museum spaces matter for housing and displaying objects, but they also matter because the spaces themselves facilitate our experiences. Museums can be social spaces, and many of us are currently craving places for in-person socialization. As a university educator, I was forcefully reminded this semester that learning can happen anywhere, so while museum spaces facilitate learning they are by no means the only way for this to happen. For social and educational needs, we are forced to confront the fact that museums aren’t “essential.”

The value of museums as physical spaces, then, is neither solely educational nor solely social, though tied to both. The true value is in contemplation. How many public spaces do we have for contemplation? Museums are spaces where we can think. We can sit and process what we’ve learned, we can share it with others, and we can process our wonder, our awe, our confusion, and even our skepticism. In museums (and to a degree, parks and libraries), it’s okay to openly show our delight and our understanding or lack thereof. It’s okay to obviously wowed, bewildered, amazed, or even lost. In museum spaces we can exist fully and without an expectation of spending money to support a for-profit agenda—how many other places can say the same?

Museums across the country have upped their online presence during the pandemic and consistently proven just how important, relevant, and useful their collections and information are. The range of digital resources that have become available or have been highlighted is impressive and vital. Not being in museums has highlighted how much they have and how useful it is in ways that a traditional visit might not have been able to. The biggest takeaway from not being in museums, though, is how magic they are as spaces, and how much we miss them. Even with this vast array of content available, I’ve found it challenging to find wonder in my own apartment. When we’re at home, expressing our feelings is not as significant as the opportunity museums provide to do so in public.

In the Animal Crossing museum, my nephews and I ran up and down the stairs, read exhibit labels, and used our “delight” reaction. But we also sat on a bench together. It was only for a moment, but sitting on a bench made of pixels in an imaginary museum provided a tiny opportunity for reflection—almost like the real thing.

-Cate LiaBraaten

Loyola University’s Unusual Students: Italian POWs and Loyola University

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next four weeks for new stories.

The Jesuit mission is to “to work for reconciliation every day — with God, with human beings and with the environment” [1]. As a Jesuit institution, Loyola University has used this statement as its guiding ideal in education and service. During World War II the world needed reconciliation more than ever before and Loyola University was compelled to extend its humanitarian mission of education to individuals who were otherwise considered enemies: prisoners of war.

Figure 1: Portrait of Marie Sheahan, head of the Home Studies Division and correspondent to Father Ferreri. (Photo Credit: “Mary Sheahan”, One Hundred Years of Knowledge in the Service of Man:  Loyola University of Chicago, 1870 – 1970”, Box 1, Folder 3, Correspondence Study Division, Loyola University Archives, Loyola University Chicago.)

From 1922 to 1985 Loyola University maintained a Home Study Division (later renamed the Correspondence Study Division), which allowed students who could not reach the campus to take courses in a variety of subjects [2]. Like others of its kind, this program was popular among students who were housewives, who lived in the countryside, and who had to work full-time. Loyola University’s division was unique as it was the only Catholic university that cooperated with the United States Armed Forces Institute (USAFI), which provided high school and college education to American service members [3]. In addition to providing correspondence courses to Americans serving in the armed forces, Loyola University partnered with Father Achilles F. Fererri (Captain, AUS) to offer courses to Italian prisoners of war.  The USAFI only covered American service members, so this decision went above and beyond Loyola’s contractual obligations.

Father Fererri was the chaplain at Camp Hereford, a prisoner of war camp in Hereford, Texas [4]. The prison held five thousand Italian prisoners of war who were captured in North Africa [5]. Out of these five thousand prisoners, fifty-four enrolled in correspondence courses through Loyola University [6]. English courses were by far the most popular with twenty-two imprisoned students enrolling in those courses. Spanish and French language courses were also popular with eleven and four students each.  Six soldiers enrolled in Sociology courses, five in law, four in Economics, and three in both Biology and Education. Psychology, Philosophy, Geology, and Latin each had only one student enrolled [7]. The Loyola University Archives does not have any record of what grades these students received.  Although the Correspondence Division kept records of all the enrollment fees and book purchases, all coursework was sent directly from the students to the professors [8]. Despite this lack of record, it is likely that these imprisoned soldiers worked diligently on their assignments.  After all, there was precious little entertainment available in prisoner of war camps.

Figure 2: Camp Hereford prisoners with priests, standing outside St. Mary’s church. (Photo Credit: St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Umbarger, TX. Accessed December 11, 2018, https://stmarysumbarger.com/)

Fifty-four students are a small percentage of five thousand inmates, but there were several factors that likely limited who among the prisoners at Hereford could take classes. First, such courses necessitated a certain level of language skills and education. Soldiers who were barely literate or who had left school at a young age would not have been able to take college classes. The second, and arguably more important limitation, was money.  Like any other students, these soldiers had to pay course fees and buy books and only a few could afford to do so.

Loyola University initially offered a half-rate discount only to prisoners of war who were not commissioned officers. In a 1944 letter to Marie Sheahan, the head of the Home Study Division, Father Ferreri explained that the commissioned offers were not paid as well as U.S. officers. Most of the officers interred at Hereford were first or second Lieutenants and received only twenty dollars per month to cover all the needs not provided by the prison. He also mentioned that Loyola’s neighbor, DePaul University of Chicago, offered a flat rate of $10.00 per course to prisoners of war regardless of rank [9]. While DePaul University also cooperated with the military for the benefit of foreign prisoners of war, DePaul was not a participating university in the United States Armed Forces Institute. Father Ferreri had originally believed that the discount rate applied to all of the students he oversaw and hoped that he could reach a similar bargain with Loyola so as not to disappoint his charges. Just over a week later Miss Sheahan replied that Loyola had not realized how small a salary the commissioned officers received and gladly extended the half-rate discount to all the students at Camp Hereford [10].


Figures 3 and 4: Left: Interior of St. Mary’s church prior to decoration by Italian POWs.  Exact date unknown. Right: Sanctuary of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Umbarger, Texas.  Interior decoration by Camp Hereford POWs and Loyola students.   (Photo Credit: St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Umbarger, TX. Accessed December 11, 2018, https://stmarysumbarger.com/)

Readers who are interested in World War II may have heard of Father Fererri and these Italian prisoners before as they were the subject of Donald Williams’ book Italian POWs and a Texas Church: The Murals of St. Mary’s. When food was scarce in Camp Hereford in 1945, Father Fererri found ways for the prisoners to use their artistic skills to work for food [11]. In the most remarkable of these activities Father Fererri and his friend the Reverend Krukkert arranged for talented artists among the inmates, mainly painters and carvers, as well as a few unskilled help-meets to decorate the interior of Krukkert’s St. Mary’s Church in nearby Umbarger, Texas [12]. Many of these same prisoners constructed used their skills in carving and painting to build a chapel that marks the graves of the five prisoners who died in the camp during their interment. 

Today the chapel is overseen by the Castro County Historical Commission and St. Mary’s Church likewise preserves the art of these imprisoned artists. In 1988, a group of the former prisoners returned for the chapel’s restoration ceremony. Only Mario De Dominicis’ name appears in both the student roster and Williams’ book, but this reunion leaves one to wonder how many uncredited Loyola students also worked on the chapel and St. Mary’s Church [13]. By working with the Armed Forces Institute, Loyola University uniquely contributed to the education of American service members as the only Catholic university to offer classes through the USAFI. By going the extra mile and offering classes to foreign prisoners of war who were not covered by the USAFI Loyola University fulfilled its Jesuit mission of reconciliation.

-Emily-Paige Taylor

Hidden History: Gay Students at Loyola

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next five weeks for new stories.

In 1991, a new organization appeared on Loyola University’s Lake Shore campus. The Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Alliance (GLBA), organized by students and sponsored by the Classics Department, was the first official club on any of Loyola’s campuses centered around LGBTQ issues [1]. Before GLBA, gay students received little official attention from the university and lesbian, bisexual, and trans students seemed all but invisible. However, Loyola’s weekly student-run newspaper, the Loyola Phoenix, tells a different story. Gay students were not only present at Loyola before the 1990s but had been forming their own societies and participating in campus-wide debates around sexuality for decades.

Figure 1: The first student directory to list an LGBTQ organization at Loyola. Courtesy of Loyola University Archives and Special Collections [2].

The 1970s were turbulent but exciting years for Loyola University. The pages of the Phoenix show students debating the Vietnam War, going on strike after the Kent State shootings, and campaigning for better representation in the curriculum. Of course, Loyolans were not alone in grappling with difficult social issues. Colleges and universities across the nation were dealing with similar cultural shifts among their students. At a Catholic university, however, topics about sexuality were especially controversial and potentially divisive. The Phoenix rarely mentions homosexuality during the early 1970s, while articles about women’s liberation, racism, and the Vietnam War appear in every issue.

Signs point to the existence of a small, yet active, gay student population long before the creation of GLBA. Advertisements for gay men’s social events held at other Chicago universities, especially Northwestern University and the University of Illinois Chicago, appeared with some regularity on the Phoenix’s “Happenings” page [3]. In 1972, Loyola’s Student Activities Board hosted its first LGBTQ event, though it did so in Evanston instead of on of Loyola’s campuses [4].  There were apparently enough interested students at Loyola to justify advertising other universities’ gay-friendly events and occasional Loyola-sponsored ones. Less frequently, the Phoenix advertised explicitly political events, such as a “Teach-Out” on sexual stereotyping that included Loyola psychology professor Dr. Naomi Weinstein [5].

Figure 2: Gay event at Northwestern, 1970. Courtesy of Loyola University Archives and Special Collections [6].
Figure 3: Loyola-sponsored gay event, 1972. Courtesy of Loyola University Archives and Special Collections [7].

There is also evidence that gay students organized unofficially in the absence of a university-sanctioned club. Two advertisements in October 1970 announced a “Gay Get-Together” for both Loyola faculty and students [8]. Five years later, a posting for a new gay students’ organization “not affiliated with any other group” appeared [9].

Figure 4: Ad for “Gay Get-Together” listing only a phone number. Courtesy of Loyola University Archives and Special Collections [12].

Even as organizations advertised their presence, privacy was a major concern. The Gay Get-Together organizers listed a phone number and the instruction, “Call for time and place,” instead of posting an address or meeting time [10]. GLBA included a statement about privacy protection in the description of their club as late as 1994 [11]. Gradually, however, Loyola students began to publicly come out. One who wrote to the Phoenix in support of a Gay Jeans Day (an event where gay students came out or showed their pride by wearing denim to class) in 1977 was the first to declare his sexuality through the student paper [13].

Then, during the fall semester of 1978, the topic of gay students at Loyola exploded on the pages of the Phoenix. Students and faculty debated two issues: Loyola’s reputation and the nature of homosexuality. The first controversy began in September, when philosophy professor Richard J. Westley reported hearing over summer break that Loyola was known as a “hot-bed of homosexuality” [14]. Curious where this idea originated, Westley asked students their opinion. They responded with a variety of views, ranging from outrage that Westley mentioned the topic to irritation over his less-than-positive view towards homosexuality. One anonymous gay student asserted that gay activity at Loyola was “less than mild” [15]. Another student claimed that the real issue was not homosexuality at Loyola, but premarital sex, sparking another round of debate [16].

Figure 5: Dr. Westley’s article to the Phoenix in 1978. Courtesy of the Loyola University Archives and Special Collections [17].

The subject of homosexuality appeared again in November after sociology professor Edward Levine went on the radio claiming that homosexuality was a mental illness. This time, the controversy stayed between faculty. Northwestern University professor Paul Siegel responded to the broadcast in the Phoenix with an impassioned counterargument [18]. A week later, Levine answered Siegel with a defense of his position [19]. Finally, two more Loyola professors offered their own critiques of Levine’s argument [20]. The issue appeared to die off after winter break, never reappearing during the 1978-1979 academic year. Still, the fall semester Phoenix articles reflected the real and sometimes heated conversations occurring at the Lakeshore campus. Clearly, gay students and gay rights were becoming much more visible than they had been in 1970.

As an urban Catholic school, its response to its gay students was unique, but Loyola was far from the only university adapting to changing attitudes during the 1970s. In the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots, gay students across the country grew increasingly vocal and organized, but as late as the 1990s most college campuses had yet to form official LGBTQ groups like Loyola’s GLBA [21]. In the 1970s, Loyola was neither especially inclusive nor repressive towards its gay students. It was similar to its neighbor, the women’s and Catholic Mundelein College, where lesbian relationships were tolerated, though not celebrated [22]. Additionally, while Loyola apparently held fewer gay-friendly events than Northwestern and UIC, there is no evidence in the Phoenix of gay students being targets of violence as they were at some other schools [23].

Figure 6: Q-Initiatives logo [25].

Gay Loyolans found ways to meet each other and advocate for themselves decades before there were official LGBTQ student groups. Their efforts laid the foundations for groups like GLBA in the 1990s and QTPoC and Advocate today. Loyola itself has changed in the decades since the first university-sponsored gay event in 1972, now hosting regular events from safe space workshops to LGBTQ film showings [24]. These events are no longer aimed only at gay men but include the whole of the LGBTQ spectrum. Though privacy remains an issue for some, support and resources are now available on the university website. Loyola’s LGBTQ students are no longer hidden or invisible. Instead they are out and involved in the Loyola community.

-Hannah Overstreet

Lecturing on the Big Screen: Closed-Circuit Television at the Loyola School of Dentistry

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next six weeks for new stories.

Over the course of nearly a century, students sought out dental education in the United States in high demand. Dental schools popped up all across the country from the late-nineteenth century and into the mid-twentieth century, becoming well-rated, and drawing in an international pool of students. Some schools, especially in the late-nineteenth century, even required medical degrees upon admission. Even among hundreds of dental schools, some emerged as the best and most respected. One of these top-tier dental schools was the Loyola School of Dentistry. It all started in 1883, when Truman W. Brophy established the Chicago Dental Infirmary on 22 West Adams Street. Renamed the Chicago College of Dental Surgery (CCDS) with a new charter in 1888, the college grew quickly in size and reputation. Over its first 5 years, CCDS moved into new buildings a total of four times to accommodate the growing student population and dental technology needs. By 1893, the school found its longtime home at 1757 West Harrison Street [1].

Figure 1: Photograph of the Chicago College of Dental Surgery at 1757 W Harrison [2].

From its inception, CCDS pioneered the field of dental education and attracted students from across the globe. As early as 1890, school officials noted student enrollment from countries such as Canada, Germany, and Peru [3]. The school was the first to integrate the educational use of apparatuses for cultivating bacteria, and boasted a graduate, who later became Dean of Faculty, who was responsible for reorganizing the Dental Corps of the United States Army [4]. Though these innovations came within the school’s first forty years, CCDS continued to raise the standards of dental education. In 1923, the Chicago College of Dental Surgery affiliated with Loyola University Chicago. Under the university’s charter, and a newly formed Department of Dental Research, faculty members contributed to dental literature at an unprecedented pace. It was in 1954, however, that the Chicago College of Dental Surgery took one of its largest strides in pioneering dental education—It became the first dental school in the United States to own a permanent closed-circuit television system for clinical lectures [5].

Beginning in 1951, Loyola University reserved local channel 11 for the first round of TV programming coming from the university. Broadcasts included university updates, music programs, and Rev. Francis Filas, S.J.’s yearly Christmas special [6]. TV broadcasting from the university turned out to be a successful investment for Loyola. From the initial incorporation of university public broadcasting, departments of the university implemented the use of television for their own needs. The dental school was no exception.

As the student population at CCDS grew, so did the needs of faculty members to properly instruct clinical practices. Dental students typically crowded around one dental chair in order to observe the techniques of their professors. This manner of observation could only serve three to four students at one time, and the rest of the class would miss first-hand instruction on dental care. One way that CCDS attempted to alleviate the issue was by establishing a Department of Visual Education in 1950, where photographic slides were made available for classroom use [7]. Four years later, the alumni publication of CCDS, The Bur, reported a recent purchase by the department of a closed-circuit television [8]. The purchase reflected the broader effort by Loyola to implement educational material on broadcast television.

Figure 2: A pamphlet advertises closed-circuit television at the dental school [9].

Shortly after the Chicago College of Dental Surgery purchased the closed-circuit television equipment, the school presented its new clinical lecture method at the Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting in February of 1954. The poster and table presentation, titled “Teaching Dentistry with TV,” displayed the advantages of the closed-circuit TV method. On the left side of the board, a picture showing students crowding around a dental chair to observe their professor is pinned with the caption “Few Really See.” On the right side of the board, presenters pinned a photo of current dental students watching a lecture with the TV projections. The caption under this photograph reads “Vision Unlimited.” Clearly, the dental school envisioned a bright future for its students upon adopting a new lecture style. The Bur also took a positive approach to the method. In the 1954 issue of the bulletin, editors praised the Visual Department’s new purchase:

In recent months this department has been highlighted with purchase of its own closed circuit television system. This means that the faculty at the dental school, through its own department of visual education, can televise any demonstration, technic or clinical procedure from anywhere in the dental school building, to any other part of the school. For example, it will be possible to televise an oral surgery procedure from the surgery to the amphitheatre, where it will be possible for 100 students to see what is being done instead of the usual one or two. The use will not be limited only to clinical demonstration, but will have a place also in laboratory demonstrations, such as setting up of teeth or even an anatomical [dissection]. [10]

Figure 3: The dental school’s presentation at the Chicago Dental Society meeting [11].

Within the first eight months of incorporated closed-circuit lecturing in the dental school curriculum, students and alumni already expressed positive interest in the new format. The Bur reported, “The days of a few students viewing an operation is past. Now the entire class has a front seat” [12]. Closed-circuit television opened avenues for the dental school. Students were no longer limited to a faraway view of their professors’ hands, nor did they need to rely on notes from classmates who had a closer look at clinical techniques. Displaying the professor’s work on televisions inside an amphitheater meant that more students could view the lecture at once; in effect, the dental school could accept more students into the program with the new method. Implementing closed-circuit television also decreased the amount of time professors spent on each lecture, since they could easily move from one technique to another without worrying about students’ poor vantage points.

Figure 4: Students watch their instructor on the screens at the front of the classroom [13].
Figure 5: A technician holds a camera for the procedure to be broadcast to a classroom [14].

Even after the incorporation of closed-circuit television for lecture halls, CCDS remained committed to innovative teaching methods and spaces. By the late 1960s, Loyola’s dental school was the only school in Illinois to teach the “four-handed, sit-down” method [15]. The method utilizes the help of dental assistants alongside the dental practitioner for more efficient dental hygiene appointments, and is still incorporated in dental assistant programs today. Additionally, a new dental school building was completed on the Maywood medical campus in 1969 to accommodate more students, lab space, and technology. During the centennial celebration of Loyola University in 1970, a commemorative booklet noted that fifty-one percent of Chicagoland dentists were graduates of CCDS [16]. Loyola’s dental school retained its strong reputation as one of the state’s largest dental schools until decreasing enrollment and high maintenance costs led to its closing in 1993. Although Loyola no longer has a formal college of dentistry, the former school’s Maywood building has been renamed the Maguire Center, and houses the medical campus’ Oral Health Center [17].

-Bianca Bárcenas

Mundelein and Loyola Speak Out: Social Activism in Student Publications (1967-2018)

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next seven weeks for new stories.

With their Jesuit affiliation, social justice has been at the forefront of the missions of both Loyola University and Mundelein College.  With the approach of the 1960s, however, students and faculty felt particularly empowered to make their voices heard— at their home institutions, in their communities, and around the world.   In this post, we’ll look at a few examples of Loyola’s participation in social activism and political discourse over the past 50+ years.

Figure 1: Students and faculty debate the ramifications of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War (1967), Skyscraper, 1967

“Every time we’ve escalated it’s because another policy has failed,” Loyola sociology professor Clark Kissinger, one of the “doves” on the panel, is quoted as saying in the Skyscraper, addressing the motivations behind the United States’ escalation of its involvement in the Vietnam War [1]. Reporters at the entirely student-run, Mundelein College newspaper were covering the April 26, 1967 Vietnam War Teach-In, an opportunity for discussion and reflection about the causes and implications of our nation’s continued involvement in the conflict abroad.  While the headline clearly addresses the tension between those on either side of the debate, the panel distribution hints at the majority political leanings of the school’s student body and staff as well.

Figure 2: Students confront Loyola administration at 1969 Student Convocation, Loyola News, 1969

“…probably the first time university administrators were criticized to their faces…”  In 1969, Loyola’s “very best” students were invited by the administration to attend the Honors Convocation and share their “opinions and perceptions” about the past year. What the administration and attending parents got was a succession of admonishments about the university’s dismissal of students’ voices and the “radical change” that needed to occur within the university’s walls and policies.  While many parents in the audience responded with gasps and rebukes of the speakers, the Loyola News does note that “administration took the remarks graciously as the sincere reflection of responsible students’ opinions” [2]. 

Figure 3: Black students at Mundelein College demand change in the culture of their institution, skyPAPER, 1970

“The future of both cultures hangs precariously on our decision.” Black students at Mundelein spoke as one voice and presented a list of five demands to the university faculty. On May 26, 1970, they received a response at the town hall meeting in McCormick Lounge.  “We have chosen not to ignore [these demands],” responded Sr. Virginia McDermott to the “several hundred” people in attendance.  Money was pledged to assist the families and honor the memories of the two students who had been killed at Jackson State, recommendations were made to the white community at Mundelein, and university president Sr. Ann Ida Gannon promised that the administration would “move to meet the black students’ needs as quickly and as fully as possible” [3].

Figure 4: Blackacre’s editorial board reflects on the tumult of the past few years and the change it produced, Blackacre, 1975

“…the more or less calm satisfaction…” The September 25, 1975 editorial in Loyola Law School’s Blackacre speaks to the tumult that the university had experienced in the first half of the decade, and the present “contentment” felt after a year of “news and controversy.”  There had been faculty resignations, “publicity controvers[ies],” and a rift between the law school and the university about a proposed Legal Aid Clinic. However, the start of 1975 brought a year of all seats on the faculty being filled, a functional Legal Aid Clinic, and the redesign of classrooms.  The editorial attributes these changes to the “student activism of the past two years” that was “instrumental in effecting a change in the University’s position toward the law school,” as well as the new Dean Murdock [4].

Figure 5: The Loyola Phoenix’s political cartoon, titled “Castro, the archer,” Loyola Phoenix, 1982
Figure 6: Students and faculty call for the withdrawal of of military and economic aid from El Salvador, Chicago Tribune, 1990 

On March 19, 1982, the Loyola Phoenix published a political cartoon depicting Uncle Sam grabbing Central America and clenching it between his fists as Cuba’s Fidel Castro shoots arrows into his behind [5].  Later, in a continued attempt to shine a light on the United States’ military involvement in Central America, Loyola students and faculty published a full page ad in the Chicago Tribune, calling for the withdrawal of economic and military aid from El Salvador after a string of brutal killings of Jesuit-affiliates by the Salvadorian military [6].  

Figure 7: Loyola graduate students interrupt budget meeting in an attempt to negotiate with administration about pay and working conditions, Loyola Phoenix, 2018

Current examples of activism and it’s coverage in student publications is evident on October 17, 2018, as graduate students crashed a budged meeting “calling for higher wages and union recognition.”  Long a source of tension in university environments, the demands of many graduate students workers—demands that often require a set number of hours per week, in addition to grading papers, holding office hours, and attending their own classes—felt untenable to many, and they voiced these concerns.  “We are fed up,” members of the union are quoted in the Loyola Phoenix as saying.  To date, they have not been able to negotiate with the university, as Loyola representatives have expressed that graduate student workers are “students in every sense of the word” [7]. 

Like most Jesuit-affiliated institutions, the student bodies of Loyola University and the former Mundelein College have a deep sense of the importance of social justice and the power of political activism.  We look forward to seeing their ongoing commitment to social change and the reporting on it through their myriad student publications.

-Ericka Christie

Playing a Part: Loyola Actors Find Their Place in the Chicago Theatre Scene

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next eight weeks for new stories.

While Chicago’s rich theatre history evolved over the 20th century, Loyola students pushed their pins into the map of the Chicago theatre scene. [1]. With Pulitzer Prize winning premiers and Broadway bound productions, the city’s theatre scene clawed out a reputation as a lab for world class performances. Loyola University theatre program grew on a parallel trajectory beginning as a student run organization and ultimately becoming a full fledged professional training program with the creation of a theatre department.

When Professor Joseph Rice took over direction of the Loyola University Players full time in 1931, it didn’t take him long see the need to move Loyola performances off-campus to reach a larger audience. In March of 1932, he directed Loyola students in “The Enemy” by Channing Pollack at the Goodman Theater [2]. At that time, the Goodman was housed at the Art Institute which provided an opportunity for the student production to perform downtown [3].

Figure 1: This emblem dramatically displays LUP, Loyola University Players,’ from their 1932 production of The Royal Family of Broadway by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber [4].

In 1952, the Loyola Theatre Players, under the direction of Reverend James T. Hussey, did more than transport their theatre to the outside world; they brought the world to their productions [5]. In a much-publicized event, Father Hussey produced the Loyola Theatre Festival which brought in Hollywood and Broadway stars to perform alongside Loyola student-actors. The brightest star of the lot, Gene Raymond, had shared a stage with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and appeared in ninety-seven films but took the time in 1952 to perform in The Devil’s Discipline by George Bernard Shaw at the Loyola Community Theatre [6].

In a retreat from the slings and arrows of Hollywood fortune, Raymond “took a kitchenette apartment near Loyola University” according to the Chicago Tribune’s gossip column “Tower Ticker by Will Leonard” [7]. In his rented abode, Raymond hosted the student cast of another Loyola Theatre Festival production, The Royal Family, to a dinner he prepared himself.

Figures 2 and 3: These two programs from the 1952 Theatre Festival are the dullest in the whole Loyola theatre records archive [8].

The 1952 Theatre Festival, while charming, did not necessarily put Loyola theatre on the map. It was a spectacular event but not a legitimizing one. Students must have been a thrilled to work and play with world class actors like Raymond, but critics did not find it very amusing. Tribune columnist, Claudia Cassidy, condemned Loyola Theatre Festival’s attempt at George Bernard Shaw’s work by saying, “Frankly, it seems wiser to me and infinitely more enjoyable, to read such a play than to share in a botched-up performance.” Cassidy left after the first act of one of the program’s performances complaining that the star, Dennis King, did not have a suitably aquiline nose for the part—yes, literally, his nose—adding that Shaw was “quite simply not for amateurs [9].”

There is no word that could cut as deeply into the heart of Loyola’s burgeoning theatre than that—amateurs. After roping in a handful of professional actors including Hollywood stars, Loyola was still being relegated to the kid’s table in Chicago’s theatre scene.

The Curtain Guild, Loyola’s student led theatre group, dealt with the same criticism. A Loyola News review from 1965 gave their “Six Characters in Search of an Author” by Luigi Pirandello a harsh critique once again alluding to the lack of quality in acting [10]. Later that school year, an editorial in the Loyola News recommended the Curtain Guild include a “company of professional actors” to increase audience attendance at performances [11].

Figure 4: This program cover is from the 1965 production of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Character in Search of an Author.

            Loyola University responded to that criticism in 1968 by creating a professional training program, the Loyola Theatre Department [12]. The first theatre majors were in the same generation of actors as the Illinois State University grads who started Steppenwolf Theatre at the North Shore Unitarian Church [13]. In fact, in 1974 when Steppenwolf staged its first production, Loyola theatre majors boasted Chicago theatre credits at popular venues like the Athenaeum, Court Theatre, and a handful of other Chicago venues [14]. The theatre department, under the direction of Arthur W. Bloom, merged with the Chicago theatre scene at the most exciting time in Chicago theatre history. The department’s inaugural theatre majors took advantage of the fortune of their era and cast off the amateur designation.

Figure 5: Here are a selection of programs from the early seventies during the first few years of the official Loyola Theatre Department [15].

Dr. Arthur Bloom chaired the Theatre Department during the zenith of the Chicago storefront theatre age in the early 1980’s. He worked to secure internships at Organic and St. Nicholas Theatre which both produced acclaimed world premieres of Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet [16]. Under his leadership, the Theatre in Chicago class brought students across the city to see an array of productions from the Lyric Opera’s Macbeth to Steppenwolf’s Of Mice and Men [17]. Bloom prioritized students’ engagement with the Chicago theatre community.

Today, the results of the parallel trajectory of Loyola Theatre and the Chicago theatre scene are visible around the city and the country. Theatre alumnus Osh Ghanimah founded the non-profit, Broadway for All, whose mission is to “train young artists from all income levels and all ethnic backgrounds in a world-class conservatory–led by professionals from the Broadway, television, and film industries [18].” That mission surpasses the scope of the Loyola’s theatre leaders and pursues a goal of social progress, but the ambitious spirit is the same: Loyola’s theatre has fought to make itself an integral part of the greater community and the theatre world.

Figure 6: This blog has been constructed using the Loyola University Theatre Records with a specific emphasis on past theatre production programs. In this bizarre excerpt from a production of Arsenic and Old Lace in 1973, this student is either trying to say they are a werewolf or a vampire [19].

-Anthony Stamilio

I&M Canal Boat Tour Review

Courtesy of the I&M Canal website ( https://iandmcanal.org/ ).

LaSalle, Illinois in 1848 was bigger than Chicago when the Illinois & Michigan Canal (I&M Canal) was completed, connecting the Illinois River to Lake Michigan. Water travel reigned as the fastest way to move people and goods across the United States. The canal gained importance for people’s livelihoods, politics and policy, the growth of Chicago, and travel. Today, a boat ride tour, pulled by a single mule down a small portion of the formerly active canal, physically connects you to the past. The tour guide stresses the canal’s crucial history during its reign and covers a significant portion of it. The tour’s setting and how it presents the canal’s history, pull it together to make it a unique experience. However, what the tour makes up in history and setting, it falls short on engaging the audience and encouraging visitors to explore the rest of the I&M Canal National Heritage Area (NHA).

A Taste of History: The Boat Ride

The start of the tour eases you into a laid back and nostalgic atmosphere for a time a visitor today would not have remembered. When you arrive in Lasalle, the café that holds the visitor center desk for the boat rides sits on the charming downtown avenue filled with businesses housed in brick buildings from an earlier era of the town. Just behind the café/visitor center and under a bridge is where The Volunteer, a 1840s packet boat replica, sits in the canal waiting for visitors to board. Larry the mule stands waiting nearby to be hooked to the boat and start his daily chore. Some tours offered on the canal have the crew dressed in period clothing.  The three-person crew starts the tour off by going into a little more detail about themselves, mules, and the boat. Once “The Volunteer” leaves its dock you are taken about a mile down the canal. The crew consists of a boat captain, a deckhand, and a mule tender—one who guides the boat, one who tells the history, and one who guides the mule along the shore, respectively. The deckhand is essentially your guide through history, starting from the beginning when Indigenous Peoples used the Illinois River and Lake Michigan to the present day that touches on the canal’s designation as a National Heritage Area. The only interaction you can have with the deckhand is halfway through the tour when the boat turns back and he opens the floor for a few questions. It gives people an option to just enjoy the boat ride and tune out any historical insight or to listen with attentiveness to every word.

The tour content focuses on how the canal affected politics, economy, and people through time, demonstrating exactly what the I&M Canal Heritage Area values. It takes you all the way from how plans to build the canal changed what we think of the Illinois landscape today to the restoration and preservation stories of the canal giving its story a triumphant ending as the first federally designated National Heritage Area in the United States.

At the end of the tour everyone disembarks, and visitors are encouraged to meet Larry the mule giving him attention and admiration. Some visitors choose to wander part of the canal on foot—a path built alongside it that goes for 90 miles out of its original 96-mile length—and read plaques and other signs to get a little more history.

Larry the Mule receiving pets and thanks after the boat ride. Photo credit: Ve’Amber D. Miller

Is There Something Missing?

Visitors experience the setting before anything else. Even when the crew is not dressed in period clothing, the atmosphere does a good job of introducing itself as a reflection of its earlier years. The tour relies on the setting and stays aware that visitors will immediately have questions about it on their mind by starting off with an explanation of the crew, mule, and boat.

Although, how the tour guide delivers information revealed one of the boat tour’s weaknesses.  Instead of relying on Audience Centered Experiences (ACE), the canal boat tour decides to stick with a more traditional lecturing approach. ACE has become an increasingly used element in National Park Service (NPS) tours and best described as a technique that encourages more dialogue with an audience in order to “guide mean-making experiences[1]. Despite the I&M Canal’s connection to the NPS, the tour decides to forgo the technique. Information is delivered via speakers installed on the boat creating a bit of distance between the guide and the audience. It again emphasizes how much the tour relies on its setting. The information becomes difficult to keep up with since there is only a small pause in the stream of details delivered.  

Furthermore, the tour’s expressed values lean towards a more rose-colored view of the time. It touches briefly on the mistreatment of workers, mentioning that during harder times workers were paid in scrip instead of cash who then struggled to make ends meet. A lot of current literature also takes a lighter, jubilant view of the canal and its history as well, focusing on most of the good it created. A solution may be found in special boat tours or other programs that focus on unexplored topics. If there is any turbulent history connected to the I&M Canal, it has been detailed very little.

Lastly, without the supplemental material—in particular, the I&M Canal National Heritage Area brochure—it is harder to understand the rest of the 96-mile canal and its associated sites without maps displayed anywhere else.  A few words about the other historic sites and tours along the I&M Canal while on the boat tour would have been beneficial to understanding the significance of the entire National Heritage Area but were missing despite being an easy addition.  

An Exceptional Experience

The I&M Canal Mule-Pulled Boat Ride strives to hit the mark on the principles that are part of the mission it and other associated historic sites share, but it does fall short in a few places. It does well to show the preservation of the history of the I&M Canal, using the replica packet boat and environment to its advantage. Yet the delivery of the history falls short when told through a more lecture style and impersonal method. The tour highlights the impact the I&M Canal had on the people and industry along it; the missing perspectives leave a hole, nonetheless. On top of the missing perspectives, the tour fails to mention other sites and tours to explore which hurts what could be an introduction to the greater region. Overall, the I&M Canal Mule-Pulled Boat Ride has its strengths, but improvements can be made to help it become an exceptional experience.

Ve’Amber D. Miller


[1] Foundations of 21st Century Interpretation, Ver. 2017 (Harpers Ferry: National Park Service, 2016),5.

Interview with “Windy City Historian” Patrick McBriarty

Patrick McBriarty is a Chicago historian who is best known as being the foremost expert on the history of Chicago’s bridges. Beyond writing Chicago River Bridges (2013), three children’s books about city infrastructure, and his blog The Trunnion, he gives public presentations and tours around the Chicagoland area to adults and children. Chicago River Bridges won the 2013 Henry N. Barkhausen Award for Original Research in Great Lakes Maritime History and the 2015 Ferguson Prize for Outstanding and Original Reference from the Society for the History of Technology. He regularly presents at the Chicago Maritime Museum and the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. He manages the websites for all of his projects and spearheaded the nearly eight thousand member facebook page, Windy City Historians, which he jokingly calls “Chicago History Porn.” He now hosts the podcast Windy City Historians with local history writer Chris Lynch about the history of Chicago from the seventeenth century to the present. McBriarty’s work in history has been entirely aimed at a public audience with a focus on public education. McBriarty is equal parts expert historian and amateur enthusiast which grants him access to a diverse audience. 

I sat down with Patrick on September 10, 2019 to get his thoughts about his experiences working in public history. The following is not a verbatim interview. The words are ours but have been condensed for time.

Anthony

What did you do before you started writing and talking about history?

Patrick:  

Well, [my degree] was from Miami University, and actually, while I was there I had a minor in international business so I ended up being a few courses shy of a minor in history in undergrad. I stuck around with a masters in economics.

Anthony

I’ve noticed that you seem to be able to brand yourself well, and I wonder if— and I know that you’re the bridge guy to a lot of people.

Patrick:  

Many people have called me that, yeah.

Anthony

Do you think that branding comes from your experience in business? Where does it come from?

Patrick:  

Well, definitely, I came through business school with my economics degree, and then worked for about twenty years or more in doing a little bit of sales or marketing and then eventually some management or SAP consulting. Then I turned full time to the books and the creative work which I’ve done pretty much full time for the last five and a half—actually, no, pretty much going on seven years now.

So yes, I already have a sense of sales and marketing, but I really enjoy the creative aspect of being able to pursue the projects I want to pursue. The sales and marketing doesn’t drive what I’m doing, the interests do. 

Anthony:

How is presenting public history as an interpreter compared to working with kids? How is that audience switch?

Patrick

I mean, the switch is fun actually, but I find that the same themes—if you distill them properly—resonate well with both. I mean, one of the things that I joke about even today that I live under a bridge since writing my first book. And that goes back to doing the kids presentation on the first book which is a picture book called Drawbridges Open and Close. 

Essentially a bridge structure is any wall and a ceiling. Or a table or a chair is really a bridge; it’s just a really specialized bridge because that structure is all over the place.

You run into things kids will give you once they catch on to the concept. I was at a school and one of them raised their hand and said, “Well, I live under a bridge on top of a bridge and on top of a bridge because I sleep in a bunk bed. So you never know [when] you’re gonna wind up with somebody else’s ideas that you can kinda take and use as well.

Anthony

I went to a talk that you gave about the podcast, and [in] the first couple of episodes about the podcasts you reveal this new alternate history of Chicago. An audience member challenged you at one point. I felt you responded to it pretty well. How do you feel about those kind of interactions? Have you had those before? 

Patrick:  

I think any good theory or idea ought to be challenged as much as possible because it helps make it more robust. And I also like to think about things in different ways. So that, should I have a question, I should try to respond to it in a reasonable manner, but I also learned early on, just saying “I don’t know” is a sufficient answer. But if it’s something I want to investigate, that’s another way I can follow up with it. I can’t be the expert on all things.

Anthony

In your podcast, you seem to focus on the history tellers themselves. Was that something you intended to do? 

Patrick

You know, that’s a good question. I think part of it is my own sense of not really considering myself that much of an expert but more of a synthesizer and gatherer of information. I think I’m probably good at telling stories and pulling out the good bits. But I’d much prefer having somebody else be the expert. 

We just stumbled into the fact that here John Swenson has uncovered this new history that we’re hoping will also get run up the academic flagpole. In the background I’m working on massaging a paper he started several years ago and trying to get that in shape; where then collaboratively we’ll put it out and get it published to have some more academic rigor put to this idea that there’s this second portage, and maybe that was the primary portage for most of these French explorers. Marquette and Joliet probably didn’t go past what’s today the Michigan Avenue bridge but probably went down through the Calumet River. That’s pretty revolutionary for Chicago’s early history. That’s interesting and fascinating, and yet it wasn’t something that we didn’t just take at face value. There’s been some controversy around it. 

But if we end up being wrong then so be it. We’ll happily fix or retract things, but at this point it’s a compelling enough argument that we felt it was worth putting that out there to see where it goes. John Swenson—I’m still in contact with him—is working to refine this as I’m working on this paper right now, and hopefully we’ll have that published in the spring next year.

Anthony

It’s fascinating because your subjects are more than just these dead historical figures. Your subjects are the people who you’re interviewing.

Patrick:

It’s a really fun way of presenting the history. And that’s kind of the point. How do we tell these stories that are still fresh and may be new, or can we uncover any new history and put it together in a way that hasn’t been done before? 

My guess is that we’ll probably start to hit decade-to-decade coming up next. I’m working right now on the subsequent ones to the Marquette and Joliet reenactment where we’re gonna talk about Point de Sable and John Kinzie and Fort Dearborn and the battle or massacre­­—depending on how you want to tell it—, and then work our way up to the 1840s and 1850s and so on. That’s gonna be fun because it’s going to take me into some bits of history that—some of which I know quite well—I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Fort Dearborn period and John Kinzie and Jean Lalime and the first murder of Chicago. Then after that, I’m not so well versed in some history. It’s going to be fun to bring in some other experts and learn more about that and also prepare for those interviews as we roll out a new episode the last Friday of each month. 

For a copy of the full transcript of the interview with Patrick McBriarty, contact Anthony Stamilio at astamilio@luc.edu.