“Stagestruck City: Chicago’s Theater Tradition and the Birth of the Goodman”: A Review

The following review evaluates the latest exhibition on display at the Newberry Library. It is free and open to the public from 8:15 am – 7:30 pm on Tuesdays through Thursdays, and from 8:15 am – 5:00 pm on Fridays through Mondays.

adelphi

Chicago-area scholars are most assuredly acquainted with the diverse array of historical resources available at the Newberry Library. However, what would happen if pieces from their acclaimed collections found a way off the shelves and into a gallery space? The answer can be found in a new exhibition called “Stagestruck City.”

According to the first didactic panel visitors encounter upon entering the exhibit, the show’s story is about the venerable Goodman Theatre, Chicago’s oldest center for performing arts. It aims to explore “the theatre’s founding within the context of a remarkable heritage of live performance and popular amusement in the city.” This mention of “context” is critical for the exhibition as a whole, as one of its greatest strengths is delving into the intricacies of the Goodman’s founding while not overwhelming the audience with details about just one location. Indeed, the exhibition begins by examining theatres that reigned over the Second City’s entertainment industry decades before the Goodman was even conceived.

Col. Wood's MuseumThe first segment of gallery space succeeds in drawing in the visitor. The vibrant posters from places like the Adelphi Theatre and Col. Wood’s Museum (left) are mesmerizing examples of ephemera, and scanning through them could make readers feel like they themselves are late-nineteenth century theater buffs. Before 1871, contemporary plays could amusingly share the stage with more carnivalesque attractions such as the world’s largest lion! Everything changed, though, with the Great Chicago Fire. The conflagration consumed Chicago’s entertainment venues, providing an opportunity for more grandiose theatrical arenas to rise in their wake.

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Plans for Summer 2013, Part Two

LFH

What do public history grad students do with their summers? Learn about the exciting internships and projects that students are undertaking across the country and beyond.  Be sure to check back over the summer and  fall for students’ reflections on their work.  To read what our first batch of students are doing with their summers, click here. And, to see about what our students did last summer, click here and here.

Joshua Arens, First Year Public History Masters Student: This summer I will be in the great state of Wisconsin eating cheese and brats (duh), hanging out by Lake Michigan, and going to Summerfest and Brewers games! Oh, I have an internship too. I’ll be spending my summer working at the Milwaukee Public Museum in the anthropology department cataloguing and researching Bronze Age artifacts from the Hopi Tribe. Check out my blog to read all about my happenings this summer!

Kristin Emery, Second Year Public History Masters Studient: Well, I just graduated from Loyola and let me tell ya, it feels totally awesome. In addition to insisting that my friends and family call me “Master” and signing all of my correspondence “Kristin Emery, M.A.,” I recently started a new position as the Programs Assistant at the Newberry Library’s Hermon D. Smith Center for the History of Cartography. In my role there, one of my primary charges will be researching and selecting images, then obtaining permissions to use them in “Make Big Plans:  Daniel Burnham’s Vision of an American Metropolis,” an NEH-funded online resource that explores Danial Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago and its influence on urban planning in the subsequent century. I will also be promoting and coordinating several public programs including, “Pictures from and Expedition: Aesthetics of Cartographic Exploration in the Americas,” a Newberry Symposium on June 20 and 21, and the Eighteenth Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lectures in the History of Cartography which will focus on the War of 1812 and its effects on American Cartography. There may also be a mail merge or two in there…Oh yeah and if anyone has any suggestions for post-grad hobbies, tweet them to me @PublicKristory.

Laura Johns, Second Year Public History Masters Student: Like Kristin, I recently graduated and agree that, “it feels totally awesome!”  I am looking forward to catching up on sleep, reading for pleasure, walking on the beach, and watching all the films I missed while in graduate school (based on recommendations by Lakefront Historian posts, of course).  How, you may ask, will I find time for these activities?  I am invoking the “eight-hour day.”  That’s right!  No more sixteen to eighteen-hour graduate student workdays.  My wonderfully abbreviated workdays will include contract exhibit design and curation for Rush University Medical Center, submission of applications for the ever-elusive permanent public history job, and continued work on personal projects related to history, memory, and the Civil War.

Cambray Sampson, First Year Public History Masters Student: I will be spending my summer on the shores of Lake Huron interning at Tawas Point Lighthouse.  This lighthouse, first lit in 1877, is located at Tawas Point State Park in East Tawas, Michigan and is part of the Michigan Historical Museum System.  While there, I will be giving tours, working with guest lighthouse keepers, working in the museum store, and assembling educational and programming materials.  When I’m not working, I look forward to living at my grandparent’s cabin, reading, and spending time with my family and friends in my home state of Michigan.  If you’re interested in what I’m doing, please feel free to check out my blog.

Joshua Wachuta, First Year Public History PhD Student: This week I will be starting my eighth season with the Wisconsin Historical Society at its longest running historic site, Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien. Located on an island in the Mississippi River, Villa Louis encompasses a War of 1812 battleground, a nineteenth-century fur warehouse, and the country estate of the H.L. Dousman Family, meticulously restored with its original 1890s furnishings. When I’m not leading house tours after our hands-on Victorian breakfasts or exploring the fur trade with fourth-graders on field trips, I expect to keep busy looking after object collections and sorting through the institutional archives that have accumulated since Villa Louis opened as a museum in 1936. I also hope to continue my study of American Indian, French, British, and U.S. cultural interaction in the Mississippi Valley and help keep the Villa’s public interpretation fresh with new research and perspectives.

Navigating the Past from our Pockets : Instagram and Public History

Anyone that knows me personally knows I’m quite the nerdy hobby photographer. Just read my archives on this blog to find out for yourself. So, when I caved and finally purchased my first smart phone last December, I immediately uploaded Instagram and started snapping away. For those of you scratching your heads and asking, “Insta-what?”, Instagram is a smart phone app (now also available on iPads) that functions like Twitter for the aspiring photographers of the world. You snap photos, add filters, and can share your photos with other Instagrammers who “follow” your feed. In turn, you can follow others, too.

With Web 2.0 now all the rage, a variety of history-related apps are available for our smart technologies. From the Library of Congress Virtual Tour to Historypin to Oregon Trail, history is literally right inside our pockets and purses. Smart phone technology has in many ways democratized access to history and history-related resources like never before. Which leads me back to Instragram. As a public historian, over-eager photog and smart phone user, I find these three worlds colliding on my iPhone 5 all the time.  In their photo-sharing ways, Instagram users are also sharing, shaping and navigating the past. So, how do we explore history with Instragram? How do I?

Below are just some of the ways. I’ve included my original captions with the images. To follow my Instagram happenings, you can follow my account annie_cullen on your smart technology or take a peek at my online profile here. Disclaimer: yes, I take too many pictures of my cats.

Instagramming History
Dream bathroom. #cuneomansion #oldshit #latergram #publichistory @zhenshchina

Instagramming History
Last set of books for the last semester of graduate school.

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