A Time to Remember

It is Christmas time again, and the Magi along Sheridan Road slowly make their way to the manger outside the Mundelein Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. This nativity scene is seen by, or at least passed by, hundreds of commuters to and from Chicago every day. I would like to draw your attention away from Chicago, and even the Land of Lincoln, to another popular, though perhaps more out-of-the-way, nativity scene.


Algona, Iowa, about 50 miles west of Mason City, is home to a unique nativity scene whose origins are sad, but enlightening. I first heard about the Algona Nativity Scene when I worked at the Camp Algona POW Museum over the summer of 2011. Camp Algona was one of some 500 base and branch camps that housed approximately 400,000 Prisoners of War in the US between 1942 and 1946. Unlike most World War II POW camps, Camp Algona is not forgotten, despite having no physical structures remaining. The memory of the prisoners and the camp is carried on by the museum, but those memories were maintained long before the museum opened its doors in 2004. The men held captive just outside town are remembered because of a gift left to Algona in 1946 by six POWs.

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Interpreting a Legend at the Field Museum

The Genghis Khan exhibit at the Chicago’s Field Museum, open until September 3, 2012, draws visitors by posing the question, “Who was Genghis Khan – a ruthless warrior, or a revered statesman?” It provides fascinating pieces of information on both sides, as well as a glimpse into nomadic Mongolian culture and life.

This exhibit has many real strengths.  The Field Museum partnered with the Mongolian Embassy and was thus given access to many rare cultural artifacts, such as bows and arrows from the 13th and 14th century, on loan from the National Museum of Mongolia. Materials on the exhibit claim that it is “the largest single collection of 13th-century Mongolian artifacts ever assembled.” The exhibit uses different forms of media, including video; projected, animated maps; reproductions; and music to engage the patron.  This range allows access to the information on different levels. The sophisticated use of media and the excellent flow through the exhibit enhance the overall experience and are no less than what one expects from a museum of Field’s caliber. Continue reading “Interpreting a Legend at the Field Museum”

The Rachels Review “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (Part I – Rachel Lewis)

Rachel Lewis and Rachel Boyle share the same first name and many courses at Loyola University Chicago.  Rarely do they share the same perspective on historical topics.  In this installment, the Rachels provide two distinct reviews of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as a work of cinematic public history.

Spoiler Alert: Some plot points are discussed in this review. If you want to be surprised by the movie, read no further.

When I first saw the previews for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter I was, in fact, excited. How could I not be? It has our 16th president, explosions, and vampire blood being splattered about. As a rule, I try to avoid historical movies; they are just too upsetting for me as a historian. For this movie, however, I was willing to ignore my rule about “historical” movies. I really wanted to enjoy this one.

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