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Reworking the Archive: The Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project

Thursday, December 3, 2020 @ 5:00 pm 6:30 pm EST


What are some unexplored ways that online environments can help us rethink “the archive”? How might i-doc storytelling tools expand what an archive can be as well as public engagement with history itself? This presentation explores these questions through a demonstration of the online Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project. The project is based on a collaboration with the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum, a small volunteer-led museum in a diverse former steel mill region. The digital archive highlights objects saved and donated by community residents, what those items meant to donors, and the stories told around and through these objects. The website uses a variety of online storytelling techniques to help viewers connect with the objects and the histories from which they emerge. It also highlights how the historic conflicts found in this multi-racial working-class community – including those around labor, immigration, racial, and environmental struggles –  continue to resonate in the contemporary moment. The website helps diverse working-class histories come alive for viewers through both objects and the spoken word in ways that are simultaneously striking and reflective of everyday life. Presenters include creative director and i-doc pioneer Jeff Soyk and the project directors, anthropologist Chris Walley and filmmaker Chris Boebel.

Jeff Soyk is an award-winning media artist with credits as creative director and UI/UX designer on PBS Frontline’s Inheritance (2016 News & Documentary EMMY winner and Peabody-Facebook Award winner) as well as art director, UI/UX designer and architect on Hollow (2013 Peabody Award winner and News & Documentary EMMY nominee).

Christine J. Walley is a Professor of Anthropology at MIT. She is the award-winning author of Exit Zero: Family and Class in Post-Industrial Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2013) and a co-creator of a documentary film Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story (2017).

Chris Boebel is Director of Media Development at MIT Open Learning, where he oversees media production for professional education and explores the uses of media in education, including VR and interactive media. A filmmaker by training, he has produced and directed feature films, documentaries, and television. His work has been shown on many networks around the world, including PBS and the BBC, and at more than 50 film festivals, including Sundance.