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.
The following is a transcript generated by Otter.ai, with human corrections during and after. For any errors the human missed, please reach out to email@example.com.
Vivek Bald 00:47
Well, it’s a real pleasure to have this trio with us today. For those of you know, there are many of us who have had the pleasure of watching the larger Exit Zero project, which includes a book, documentary film and the project that we’ll be seeing today develop over the last few years. And yeah, so it’s just exciting to see what this this new part how it’s been developing over the last year especially. I will go ahead and just introduce everyone and then I’ll hand it over to to the three of you. So Jeff Soyk is an award winning media artist with credits as creative director and UI UX designer on PBS FRONTLINE’s Inheritance, which was a 2016 News and documentary Emmy win winner and Peabody Facebook award winner, as well as art director, UI, UX designer and architect on hollow, which was also a Peabody Award winner in 2013, and a news and documentary Emmy nominee and was really, you know, one of the first projects to really show what was possible with interactive documentary, and really kind of set a sort of high bar early on in the development of that genre. Chris Walley is a professor of anthropology at MIT. She is the award winning author of Exit Zero, Family and Class in Post-industrial Chicago, which was on University of Chicago Press in 2013, and a co creator of a documentary film, Exit Zero, an industrial family story 2017. Chris Boebel, is director of media and 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. I will hand it over to the three of you. Welcome.
Christine Walley 03:29
Great, thank you all so much. And thank you, for the invitation to come speak to Comparative Media Studies colloquium with Vivek, Chris and I have been in conversation for many, many years, because our projects, our work across different media has been ongoing for a long time. So it’s been wonderful being conversation, this whole time to thank you so much for the chance for us to come and tell you a little bit about this latest project that we’re working on. And since you’ve already kind of done quick introductions about who you all are, and maybe we’ll just kind of hop into things. And so today, we’re going to be talking about a project we’ve been working on for a number of years now called the Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project. And the way we were thinking that we would organize the the discussion and demonstration today is that as the project director, I’ll give a bit of an overview of the project. And then we’re going to kind of take you through, do a demo of the site. On the sites not fully completed, we’re hoping to do our official launch in the next month or two.
But well, Chris, and Jeff will lead you through the project. We’ll go back and forth and talk more about the larger overarching ideas as well. And hopefully leave a lot of time for q&a and discussion and learn because we’re really interested to hear what you all make of this. And again, because we still haven’t officially launched yet we still have a chance to you know, take in feedback and make some tweaks. So we would love to hear what you all think. Okay, so just to happen. So this website project is a collaboration on many different levels. And one level, it’s a collaboration among ourselves, Chris, Jeff and myself, as well as a large and growing team of folks who’ve been involved in this. And then I think Jeff is doing the slides. There’s another slide, we have two that lays out some of the folks who’ve been involved in this project. And there’s been quite a number of have developed over the last 10 years, we’ve been working on this since 2004, in various different stages.
And so there’s there’s the the kind of creative team and academic team has been working on it. The three of us, we also have an archivist, a couple tech developers, we have advisory committee and a range of other folks who’ve done various things for the project. But the biggest sense in which it’s a collaboration is with the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. So what this is, it’s a little tiny museum in Southeast Chicago. And basically, the museum was created in the mid 1980s. Southeast Chicago is part of the Calumet region, which along the southeast Chicago, Northwest Indiana was kind of the old steel belt region in that area. And the steel mill started closing in the 1980s. And around that time, that the steel mills were closing, this little museum was created.
So it’s an all volunteer museum. It’s located in one room in a park Fieldhouse along Lake Michigan, it doesn’t have a phone, much less the internet. It’s, you know, we in some ways, we think of it as kind of like the community attic of Southeast Chicago. So it’s an all volunteer run institution. And it’s been that way for 40 years now, basically. So with this little community museum, as the steel mill started to close, I mean, I think basically, what happened was that a lot of people who lived in southeast Chicago, who kind of felt as the seals were closing, not only that they were losing their economic livelihoods, but that also their history, and the kind of social worlds in which they had grown up or disappearing. And so I think it was a real sense among a lot of people of wanting to, you know, hold on to or preserve, or do something with the kind of materials of the past that they had, as part of their lives, and make sure that that continued or was recognized in some way.
So there’s a lot of donation of material that happened in the 80s, and on from this region for people in the community themselves. And just to tell you a little bit more about tell you a little bit more about the community. So historically, southeast Chicago, with the rise of the steel industry in the late 1890s. A lot of the folks who came to live, there were European immigrants who came to work in the steel mills, a lot of Eastern European immigrants, around World War One, you started to get a lot of African Americans who were also coming to work in the steel mills as well as Mexican Americans. So it’s a quite diverse region. And it’s been that way historically, from some time. Um, so I think we also have some video of the museum itself, just to give you a little, a little taste of what the museum is like. So this is this is. So this is the museum, as you can see, again, it’s one room really overstuffed. With things. And it’s a pretty unique place, it has a really remarkable collection. If we’re getting some video, like maybe I’ll turn off my video, maybe that’ll help I’m not sure if that’ll help with the live. But anyway. So it’s a really kind of unique place. There’s a remarkable wealth of material in here. There’s about 180 oral histories that dating back to the 1970s. There’s about 10,000 images in the museum, about 350 pieces of film or video, but 250 pieces of clothing, countless documents and other materials.
And there’s really not anything else like this place that I know of. I mean, as a scholar who works on deindustrialization, and former industrial regions in different parts of the US. There’s not really anything else, like there’s a kind of collection of this much material that basically came out of the community itself, where the materials were donated by people in the area. And if anybody’s interested, it’s a good question for the q&a. How is it kind of how did this museum emerge and how did it end up with such an incredible collection over time? And but even those are pretty amazing institution and a lot of ways, um, you know, again, because it’s an all volunteer institutions, it’s only open one day, a week, it’s considered to be in a very out of the way place within Chicago. It’s very difficult for people to get there. There’s no public transportation there. And Chris and I started working with the museum for book and documentary film, about the region which which Vivek mentioned Exit Zero exits here was the highway, exit ramp number for the old southeast Chicago steel mill neighborhoods. And those works were more autoethnographic. I grew up in southeast Chicago, my father had been a steel worker, many of my relatives had been steel workers.
And so that original work kind of took that more kind of family oriented, as well as academic analysis to the area. And with this project, we were really trying to kind of spread it out and do something different, which you’ll you’ll see as we go, as we go along. And but we got the idea to collaborate with the museum, in part through CMS is Open Doc Lab. So actually, when Chris and I were working on the documentary film, I’m in conversation with William Uricchio. And Sarah, and at the open doc lab, you know, they’re saying, Well, you know, is there anything about the research, you should do something, you know, kind of idec related in relation to your research. And I was like, Well, I don’t know about that. But there’s this amazing museum that Chris and I have been working with. And that’s actually was the original impetus to do this project. And then we got hooked up with Jeff, who has been a fellow at the open doc lab. We knew about Jeff’s fantastic work with hollow the interactive documentary that Vivek mentioned, which was a groundbreaking early one, for those of you who are familiar with in a really fantastic piece of work. And, and so we started working on this project back in 2003 2004. And as the name suggests, Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project is really meant to be the project that we’re creating.
Now, the website is really meant to be both an online archive and a storytelling sense site with a somewhat unique take on both of those, this hopefully, will will demonstrate, I just wanted to quickly tell you some of the larger goals around the project, which we had going into this. And so those larger goals have been threefold. First of all, one of the things that’s quite important to me as an anthropologist, and somebody also who’s from Southeast Chicago, was to show the diversity and the multifaceted nature of working class lives. Right. So within the kind of the Trump era, the rhetoric around the working class, quote, unquote, has been to resurrect this notion of the weight of the working classes, kind of white male industrial workers. I mean, what this archive really does, is show that not only is that not the case, now, that also wasn’t the case in the past. folks in these industrial communities were very diverse. There was a lot of diversity from early on in racial, ethnic, gender and other terms. And so we’re really trying to capture some of that kind of diversity of what the working class quote unquote, is and hasn’t been historically. And that doesn’t mean that there weren’t very serious tensions within this region, there were certainly on racial and ethnic lines, in part because the old steel mills, the steel mill management pitted very much pitted ethnic and racial groups against each other in order to decrease unionization. And so they’re very real tensions.
And one of the things we try to do is bring some of those tensions into the website itself, as you’ll see, but we also wanted to highlight how the museum and the material really kind of offers a more multifaceted view, again, of quote, unquote, working class lives in history. So the materials and the museum not only focus on the steel mills, or on work, but also people’s social and cultural lives, popular culture, games, music, and we also try to show and what the meaty materials themselves really demonstrate in which we try to kind of capitalize on is that these kind of old communities, they also had very different kinds of strains within those communities. So both quite conservative institutions, and quite progressive institutions and other case, cases both kind of intertwine and in these communities. And so we’re really trying to capture this kind of more multifaceted view of working class history.
And secondly, another goal of the project. And what we’re really trying to do is use objects that people in the region themselves saved. And the stories that people told themselves about those objects, to generate interest in working class lives, and kind of all its ethnic, racial, and gender diversity. And so this project is very much a kind of ampro take on archives. So there’s a real kind of fascination with kind of what people say from the past.
So what if people donate to this museum? Why did they donate it? Why was it important to them? What were the stories that people told through and about these objects? And what kinds of conceptions of history emerged from this kind of storytelling objects, and the themes and the categories we use to organize the website largely emerged from the museum collection itself and the way that the volunteers from the community themselves organized the museum. So for example, there’s one featured curation on kind of military experience of the caught on the homefront. And, and you know, thinking about the military is not something I would have come in thinking about as an issue. But there was a lot of material in this museum on people’s experiences either people who had been in the military themselves Or people on the homefront and what that experience was like for them. So that ends up, you know, being one of the focuses there.
So again, we try to really draw the themes and the categories from the website from what’s actually in the museum itself. And there’s often this kind of cliche about bringing history to life. But I really do think that telling history through objects, really gives a more kind of lively sense of everyday life, and the pleasures and struggles of people’s lives, and many other ways of telling history. And I think this is particularly key given that many of the issues represented in the museum’s collection, really speak speak to key issues in our current and our current historical moment as well. So things like the nature of work, issues of police brutality, ethnic and racial conflict, controlled by powerful corporate actors. And you really see all these kinds of issues in the materials from the museum, and how people how this played out for people, historically in this kind of region. And a third goal of the project is to expand out our sense of who the audience is. So with this project, we’re really trying for multiple audiences. Obviously, we’d like the general public to be interested, we hope to attract teachers and students, we’re actually working on a study guide to accompany this project.
And we want scholars to be able to use it. But really the first audience in many ways, it’s people in the community itself, and in other de industrialized, regions like it. And so given my own background, I’ve been very concerned about being able to interface with working class audiences, particularly since for many people in regions like this. legit news is often behind paywalls local newspapers have been decimated, this area actually has the oldest community newspaper in the United States, was in southeast Chicago, which has been down for some time, there’s no more local newspapers that are left, and also disinvestment in public education. And so given this, people in the area themselves don’t necessarily know a lot about their own histories often, and how relevant the issues that their forebears struggled with how relevant they are to a lot of contemporary issues.
And so we really want to engage with diverse working class audiences who have links to this region or other de industrialized ones. And to do it on a train generated by community resumes themselves, again, through the objects the same, and the same in the stories they told about them. And so one of the goals of the project from the annual is to really think about how to reflect that working class history for working class audiences of diverse backgrounds who really don’t necessarily get a lot of that reflection back in many domains today. And part of this goal is to use these material to create bridges for intergenerational conversation.
So there’s a scholar Martha Langford, who’s arguing that photo albums she thinks of them not so much as pictorial technologies, but as oral ones. And she argues like, if you think about albums, photo of family photo albums, how people actually use them, and they, you know, they pass them around, they talk to people, you know, you sit down on the couch, and you chat with family members about what was going on, and the other people who were who are depicted in the photographs, and she really sees them as conversational objects. They were mnemonic devices to help people remember, and so. So, so there was conversation built into those kinds of albums.
And she argues that when albums got put into museums, often the conversations at the heart of those albums were suspended. And I was presenting on this work at a conference not too long ago, and a colleague said, Oh, what you’re trying to do in this project is re animate those suspended conversations, and in some case, in some ways to engage in a kind of intergenerational repair work, which I think is a really lovely way to do it.
So how do we take these objects that people in the community saved and the stories around those and use those to regenerate conversation that had been there in the past, and kind of re animate those links between different generations? Because for a lot of younger folks, they don’t know much of this history themselves. So just quickly to mention a couple challenges before I hand it off to Chris and Jeff. So a couple of the challenges we faced in putting together this archive and storytelling project. And so number one, because again, this is a tiny all volunteer institution, again, a bit more like a community attic in some ways than a formal museum. There’s been no professional archivist, historically. So record taken taking was really erratic. So different volunteers had different numbering systems, a lot of stuff was never cataloged at all sometimes you had handwritten records. Um, so it was really hard to even know what all was in the museum, and how to find it. Even for the museums. The museum volunteers themselves had been working there for decades in some cases.
And so when I was working on the first NEH grant for this back in 2013, we needed to know how many how much work was in the film and video collection because we wanted to ask for money to digitize it, but nobody knew. So I like literally spent like one day just counting. Counting VHS tapes. You know, and then you go to a file cabinet and pull out another drawer and be like, Oh my god, there’s like six more 16 millimeter, you know, reels of film here or, you know so. So at the beginning, it was simply just an also a matter of just counting things, figuring out what was actually in the museum. And then later we got money to, when we got the NIH money, the first thing we did was hire a part time archivist, Derek Potts has been fabulous. And he’s helped to take these records, and put them in an online database, and also to help systematize the records of what was there and create ones for ones that didn’t have records. So for the first time now, you know, not only for us, but also for the volunteers at the museum, they can actually see what’s in the museum.
And one of the things that’s been very cool about that, as you can see, things attract now who’s the donors, we can see how the different objects are linked, because often people different family members across generations often donated things. So you can put together now different donations and figure out how family members were related or linked together story. So it’s actually been really fantastically useful. So just figuring out what’s there to three, three or more years of work to be able to do that. A second major challenge that we had. And this is true for all, obviously, all archival collections is thinking about the silences and gaps in archives.
So in this particular case, for southeast Chicago, there’s four neighborhoods that are considered to be part of Southeast Chicago. There was a historical society founded in 1976, and one of those neighborhoods and that was largely a white ethnic neighborhood. And, and that group was one of the kind of founding founding groups. But then the project expanded out to four other neighborhoods, which were more diverse in racial and ethnic terms. But because of that kind of early history, and also because you didn’t see African Americans and Mexican Americans in the area until World War One, there’s still a disproportionate amount of material on white ethnics, largely Eastern, Eastern Europeans. And another issue that that came up also is because of housing discrimination and racism, even though you had a lot of African Americans who worked in the steel mills. And there’s a lot of material on African Americans in Union history and in the steel mills here. But because of that housing discrimination, they often didn’t live in southeast Chicago until later decades, they often lived in other parts of the city, and took public transportation.
So for example, we have a lot of material, again, on African Americans in the unions, but for example, African American businesses, there’s there’s very little on that, for example. So how to deal with that kind of capital collection. So that was, what were the kind of gaps in the silences in this collection, and how would we handle that was another real challenge. And then the last challenge I wanted to throw out was this question of how to get people excited and interested in a place like this. Thinking about something like labor or industrial history, or working class culture, something like labor history, people often know very little about it.
These days, pretty much in the 1990s, a lot of teaching of that in universities often stopped. At that point, even in the media, you don’t necessarily, you know, kind of discussion about unions is coming back, but it kind of went out of the picture for a while there. And again, as I mentioned earlier, for a lot of young people, even in this area, they really don’t have a lot of background, to bring to bear to help understand some of the materials in the collection that deal with those kinds of topics. So how do you create ways in to this material to allow people to approach the archives. And also, on my end, I was somewhat frustrated with some of the other online archives that I saw elsewhere. Sometimes they were very beautiful, sometimes very expensive, but sometimes they can be hard to approach. So some of the online archives, there might be, for example, a lot of technical information about oh, here’s a particular object, here’s its exact measurements, here’s the resolution that it was scanned at. But in terms of what do we really know about the object? Why did somebody save it? who donated it? Why did they care about this? So those kinds of questions often aren’t answered in a lot of the archives.
And so that was another kind of challenge was how to create pathways into this material that would make it engaging for people would allow them ways to think about how does how do you search for stuff? How do you search for stuff if you’re not even aware of what you should be looking for? So how do we create pathways in what people might not know anything about the area or the kinds of topics that that might be that might be interested? And how do we do this, and in a way that makes these materials engaging for people through the kind of metadata we’re going to bring about these archival objects itself. So anyway, so those were some of the challenges we’re going to be talking about later and then in the talk about how we tried to address those challenges in the website itself. So now I’ll hand it off to Chris will excuse the noise in the background will then hand it hand it off to, to Jeff.
Chris Boebel 25:10
Thanks. Um, yeah, I’m not sure what that was. So I wanted to just say a few words about the museum collection itself and storytelling, because that’s really at the heart of the project. So, you know, the thing that’s really unique, as Chris mentioned, about this collection, is how it was assembled, it was assembled by community members who basically just donated things that were important to them. So there’s not like a lot of, you know, sort of professionalization about it. There’s not a professional archivist. It’s not really programmatic. You know, it’s sort of like in a moment of crisis, this crisis of deindustrialization, which is when when the museum started, this is what was important to people, this is what people felt they needed to preserve. Um, so that means that there’s some pretty quirky items in the archive. And there’s, you know, there’s a ton of repetition.
Chris mentioned some of the organizational challenges. And you know, there’s a lot of, you know, what some people might call junk. You know, Rod Sellars, who’s the really amazing volunteer, director of the museum who has a historians training as a local community member and a retired teacher, you know, it’s always warning people, like, Don’t bring your National Geographic magazines, we don’t want those, you know, don’t don’t bring the contents of your attic, we’re not going to sort through for you, you know, what you have. But there are, you know, amazing objects and, and, and some of the objects, you know, some something that one person might call junk or trash is, of course, precious to someone else. You know, like, we have objects like like these, these are baby shoes, they were worn by a resident named Gloria huncle. Novak, was born in 1926, to German immigrant parents. She later worked as a secretary to scientists working on the Manhattan Project, at the University of Chicago, we have this, this is the last bar of steel that was rolled at Republic Steel in 1986, then called LTV Steel, you know, some of this was preserved, because the workers at at the mill when it was being closed, felt that it was important to them to to preserve it. You know, we have thousands and thousands of photographs. And other documents. These are the Martinez sisters, this is this really amazing family of Mexican immigrants, Mexican Americans, who were just incredibly dynamic, people who were real, real pillars of the Mexican American community, they’ll come up later and some of the stuff that we’re going to show you. But this is just this wonderful, vibrant shot of the women of the Martinez family, standing in front of St. Kevin’s Church in South Deering one of the neighborhoods, and you know, this stuff is all mixed in with other things that some people might consider to be, you know, trash and some people might consider to be amazing. But what really makes these things amazing, are the stories that connect to them. And the stories that people tell about them. You know, they could be a story that or that’s connected to the object directly. It could be the story of how and why it was donated, and who donated. Um, you know, and it could be a story about how one particular object in the museum is connected to other objects in the museum.
All of those are stories that we are interested in exploring with this site. You know, so so one of the chief goals of the site is to find ways to connect the objects in the archive with the stories that they tell. So, so it’s, it is an online archive. First, it’s an archive of digital objects. But what really makes the objects powerful are these stories that we try to tease out. And as you’ll see, there are sort of several strategies or techniques, we’ve attempted to tell stories with these objects, and to connect the archive itself, quite literally, with the objects and the stories that are behind them.
The other point I wanted to make is that, as Chris mentioned, this is one phase of a multi year multimedia project, which we’ve called the Exit Zero project. And this idea, this technique, or this approach to storytelling comes really out of something that we’ve been very passionate about for a long time. The answer is your project, as we’ve mentioned at the beginning, encompasses a book that Chris wrote, it encompasses a documentary film that I directed, and Chris and I co produced. The documentary film, in particular, both both of us in the film, approach this trauma of deindustrialization, that that happened in southeast Chicago, beginning in the 1980s, through the lens or through the eyes of Chris’s family. It is really a portrait of Chris’s father, who was a mill worker. who lost his job in a very, very traumatic way in the early 80s, as well as your mother, as well as her grandfather, who also worked in the mill, there were several generations of mill workers in her family, and of Chris herself as a daughter growing up in this really tumultuous time. And that we found this to be a really powerful way of telling stories to sort of take the very particular lived experiences of people, and then sort of, you know, connect those up to these sort of larger social and political forces, but to really try not to stray too far from the experience. But the the the challenge, or the downside is that, you know, you’ve got, the palette you have to work with, you have the people you have to work with Chris’s family’s experiences are their experiences. And so if we want to talk about other communities, in the neighborhood, African American, Mexican American, other experiences are the kinds of experiences, we don’t really have a window into doing that if we’re sort of state staying with her family. And what was really exciting was sort of that moment when we realized that the museum was that window into a broader community, and that we could sort of try to apply some of the same techniques, or some of the same things we were doing in the movie to this broader archive.
And so so, you know, there there are there is this sort of twofold twofold goal, or this twofold challenge. One being just MIT, you know, organize, digitize and make these objects available, because some of them are amazing, and really, really incredible. And there’s almost no way to view them, because it’s this tiny room that you saw. But secondly, to find the stories within the objects or behind the objects or between the objects, and connect those stories to these larger experiences, the experience of immigration, the experience of racism, the experience of deindustrialization. And so this site, which Jeff is going to introduce to you is an attempt to do both of those things. So Jeff, I’ll stop sharing and you can take over.
Jeff Soyk 32:11
Okay. Alright, so this is the home page. So as mentioned, from the start of this project, our team discussed the need for that this familiarity between archive, this archive of objects and storytelling, right, it’s kind of like we wanted to really strong connection between those two things. And it was definitely from the beginning, it was his desire to create his kind of cinematic immersive stories that incorporate the the items from the archive, which we ended up, we end up calling these storylines. But at the same time, just in terms of like the structure of this, as I was, I’m kind of going to go through the homepage a little bit.
We’re also aware, this website actually, apparently functioned as like a primary website for the museum itself, and their archive. So within this kind of larger archive and storytelling project umbrella that we’ve created, which also obviously includes the Exit Zero initiative. So we did have a little bit of a challenging, you know, kind of like a brand challenge to kind of overcome a little bit, but ultimately decided to kind of the way in was kind of introducing this larger archive of storytelling project, umbrella, and the homepage, and then ultimately have the digital archive, which is essentially the kind of like the homepage for the museum. And the storylines that are stories created using, you know, items from the museum, as their kind of own independent sections.
So you’ll see on the beginning here, it’s more, you know, kind of introduced with a concept of, you know, the idea of saving objects and stories we tell about them, and also bringing up the idea of, you know, who tells who’s in charge of history, and, and, and obviously, the importance of everyday objects and kind of giving me some insight into this community, this former industrial region. And kind of, you know, and asking, as Christine had mentioned earlier, you know, whether, asking the question of whether some conversations can be sparked from these from these objects, you know, and across generations and groups and regions. So kind of asking some questions, kind of sparking some curiosity. But, you know, ultimately, we’ve kind of just kind of the site has kind of two main sections. In a sense, this is the archive.
So it’s like the objects we save. And this is kind of a way into that. And then the stories we tell so that’s the storylines kind of side of the website. And as you get married, flourish, she’s one of the residents that we feature and one of the stories The rest of the homepage is more pretty standard in terms of, you know, contact and footer. So now even though they kind of the storylines, and the archives kind of exists independently on the site, they do speak to one another, which we will show. And also, the archive itself does do a little bit of work and kind of pushes itself a little bit to do a little bit more storytelling than the typical archive, which Christine will talk about further.
But I do really jump into the archive a little bit, like I get into the details just yet, cuz I’m gonna kind of take over, but just in regards to structure, the one thing that, you know, Christine mentioned earlier was that online archives can be, you know, kind of off putting to a lot of users, why they’re structured, because they can be kind of overwhelming in their broad categorization that they use, or like, you know, just kind of hitting like a large search bar, and they just kind of assume that you as a user, that you know, what you’re looking for, you know, or they seem to me, like a researcher or a scholar who kind of already has something in mind when it comes to the site.
So, you know, one of the challenges is, we definitely still want to accommodate that type of user. But we also wanted to, you know, consider other ways in to the content. So that’s something that Christina will kind of get into further detail about. I can jump in. So like, right off the bat, you can see, we have, obviously our standard, about pages, you know, so just kind of like about the community about the project, but also about the society and museum as well. So again, it’s kind of like multiple kind of components to this larger project. For those that kind of just want to jump right to the archive, we want to have an easy access to this browse option. So we’ll jump into that in a second.
So this is kind of like, as I was saying, like kind of a home base for the museum itself. This is almost like their homepage, and kind of like their their website in a sense. And Christina talk about as you scroll down some of the additions that we kind of added to it, but we really didn’t want to just hit with the you know, the kind of large search bar and kind of again, like those kinds of like overwhelming database term terms and things like that, it’s more, we wanted to kind of introduce you to it give you the option to quickly browse, but then also potentially learn about what’s in this collection for someone who has no familiarity with it. No pun intended. So just show the archive, but then dive too deep. But if I want to jump into browse. So this is so you know, one of the challenges with this was that, you know, we had to consider a kind of the scope and limitations being this, you know, being an independent team and trying to, you couldn’t really necessarily reinvent the online archive. But and just building an online archive itself is quite a beast to, to take on. But we figured what we could do is kind of build on top of it a little bit and entertain some kind of tweaks and additions, that would be just do a little bit more and kind of speak to what was mentioned earlier about trying to tease out the kind of story aspects of these objects. So this is more of the kind of kind of conventional foundation of the archive itself. As you can see, there’s close to 1000 objects entered to date, which required an enormous amount of work from all of us. But definitely Christine and the archivists.
A lot of work putting this together. We chose to do just that. Right now there’s a tab on the side that allows you to filter by different criteria. There also will be we do have a search bar that’s programmed that it’s hidden, currently, only because we have to do more work on the kind of metadata side and keywording side of things to make that search bar really function at its full capacity. So there will be a search bar here but we intentionally kind of put it off to the side and whether you know it didn’t want to hit you with that first as like the the main way in. But currently in this development version, you know, you can filter by various themes. And seen themes, we also have, you know, have sub themes as well. So you can get pretty specific in terms of the kind of topics you want to dive into. Also time periods, organized by neighborhoods, ethnicity, and race and also media type. So, so just one thing to also keep in mind that we were thinking about when building this was that this is something that is ultimately going to be kind of passed to the museum volunteers, if we think about long term maintenance, and also then kind of using this as a tool. So you are, you know, he also don’t want to make this something that they can’t navigate themselves and can’t also keep up themselves. So this is the strategy was to kind of incorporate some additions to the common archive, you know, and also, and also knowing that, you know, as we considered different ideas on how to handle the archive contents, that also kind of creates new work for either ourselves, or the museum volunteers, you know, which Christine can talk about a little bit more in terms of some of the things that we came up with, their, they definitely help bring out some of the story elements of these of this collection of this archive. But it does require, you know, additional research to be done additional work to be done and, and like content to be created and generated to be added. So we kind of approach this as like a little bit of like a, you know, stepping this thing forward kind of a little bit of a time at a time and kind of trying out a few things and things that we can kind of test, get some responses from, and kind of see what’s even feasible in terms of like, the kind of workload that we’re potentially promising. So yeah, so we think that’s the smartest way to approach it creatively and structurally. But, but, Chris, I’ll pass it on to you, she’ll get into the details of some of the limitations that we added to it.
Christine Walley 42:23
Okay, thanks, Jeff. Sorry, can everyone see that? Yep. Okay. Okay, great. So just in relation to this question of, um, in relation to the question of how to deal with gaps and silences in the collection, which I talked about a little bit about earlier. So how to deal with this. And as a, raise the question about, you know, for example, since there are fewer materials on African Americans, particularly in terms of, you know, sort of community life, how do we highlight those those materials more in the collection? So, you know, if there’s a preponderance, you know, there’s more than, say, Eastern Europeans, how do we make sure that that stuff doesn’t get kind of lost, you know, lost in the sea of other things. And so one of the ways we try to address this in the archive, I’m sorry, curations, Back to the Future curations list. And so one of the ways we tried to address this is by creating what we call to call this featured curations. We have 13 of these. So basically curating on certain topics, things that were key to life in southeast Chicago, but there might be fewer items on those things in, in the museum. But they’re things that we think people would be interested in. And so we created these feature curations.
This one here is on black experience in the mills. We have another one on women at work. And one of the things that often happens in industrial communities, because there’s a lot of focus, say, on steel labor, it tends to focus on men’s work, and doesn’t acknowledge as much there were some women who did work in the mills, both during World War Two and then beginning in the 1970s. But there was other work that women did both in the mills in offices, for example here or in other kinds of work. So we have a feature curation on women at work so that that kind of doesn’t get lost. And we have one on the creative the game, the cradle to the grave. I’m thinking about sort of the life course for many people in the area, and trying to curate some objects that relate to that again, some of these are oral history, some of them are objects, a lot of things are photos, we have one on human life, we have one on danger in the mills, mills were quite dangerous, as I think many people probably know, there’s one, I’m just having fun, there’s a lot of material on just sports and popular culture.
And, you know, so we wanted to make sure that that had had a place a key place on the site as well, because this was historically a largely immigrant community, in a lot of ways. So we wanted to kind of pull some of the key materials around that up towards the front as well. So anyway, so we have 13 different features curations. And that’s one of the ways then to try to kind of both create ways for people to be able to approach this site, but also to make sure that certain kinds of materials weren’t getting kind of lost. Getting lost overall, and to give you. So here, for example, since again, we have we have relatively little material on African American home life, we wanted to make sure that we prominently emphasize this one. These are the home movies of a family called the outcomes family. And it’s quite telling so this object in the back story, which I’ll get to in a minute what that is, but we have these descriptions of the objects, again, for a lot of African American steel workers because of housing discrimination, they didn’t actually live within Southeast Chicago.
So for example, this family, Robert Elkins was the first African American boilermaker and US Steel South works. But his family lived actually in a housing project in Brownsville and another section of Chicago, again, because of housing discrimination. So this is actually home movies from there. So we try to use the kind of stories around the particular objects to talk about the issue then of say, housing, housing discrimination, for example. And then what happened then with a lot of the housing developments in Chicago, they when they change their, their standards for how much money you can make and still live in them, a lot of African American steel workers got kicked out of housing developments. And so then they had to find housing elsewhere, which was, you know, again, very difficult for them. So housing became becomes a real kind of question. So we try to use this object of the whole movies as a way to talk about those kinds of questions. So and let me just go back to sorry, actually, I’ll just, I’ll just do it this way. So we have on featured curations is, again, a way to kind of approach this collection for our users. We also have at the very top something called featured items.
And so these featured items are, you know, one of the questions and two is when you have certain items, I’m sorry, I’m trying to get to a particular item, which is quite an amazing one, this one, for example. And that’s particularly that we really want users to focus on, say how to again, not again, have it gets lost in the shuffle. So we so the featured items are just rotating items that we want to highlight, for you deserve various points in this. And this one here was a world war one diary. And again, it’s another example of sort of things being lost in the museum, there was a note in the record that there was a world war one diary of Polish, but nobody could find it. And at some point, just like a year or so ago, somebody pulled open another file cabinet. And they found this world war one diary in the bottom of it. And so what’s happened in Polish half written in English is a really interesting piece. This guy actually he was a post American immigrant who actually joined the Polish Army during World War One. And the US allowed Polish Americans to join the Polish Army. And then they trained in Canada and actually got sent to France to fight. But anyway, so it’s half in Polish, it’s half an English, we had to find somebody who could translate it, which was hard because a lot of it’s archaic polish. But it’s interesting to this guy was also interested in poetry. So there’s snippets of poetry and kind of drinking songs and polish, but also it appears to be some poetry that he himself wrote. So we had this translated. And you know, and again, we can tell through the archival donations, and this guy had worked in the packing houses and he married a Polish young woman whose family all worked in the steel mills, and he came to live in the steel mill area. And this was later donated by a family member. So anyway, so we could use these featured items. There’s also another one about there was a midwife, a Croatian midwife, who had her midwife records going back from the 1910s and 1920s are written in Croatian, and so on, so we’re using the featured items in the future curations as a way to draw attention
Christine Walley 50:08
sorry. So there’s also an idea of story pass, which I think we’re we’re going to kind of hold off on thinking about that now until a bit later. But another major way, again, is in different kinds of ways. There’s something called the storylines, which Jeff and Chris are going to talk about. But actually, there’s sorry, there’s one thing that I forgotten to show, which I meant to my apologies, oops, sorry. Um, I just wanted to quickly show something that we refer to as backstories. And you can find an example. So you know, again, how to kind of approach these objects in a different way. So this was an ID badge from US Steel South works. And so this woman, Pasquale Martinez, she’s the mother of actually the five young women in that photo that Chris showed earlier. And so when we’re giving descriptions of these things, what we’re trying to do then is write up what we’re referring to is backstories. So if we’re trying to have a be bit more than usual kind of context that’s given and try to have it be a little more personal, partly depends on what we have an oral histories, but basically, we’ve been taking oral histories, other information, the archives, doing research on ancestry.com, on some, sometimes secondary literature, also, we’ve been going to people in the community, the museum has a Facebook page with about 6000 people. So for particular items, you know, we’ll post on the Facebook page and like, does anybody know this person, you know anything about this kind of object or what’s being depicted, and we’re getting information back, and we’re kind of creating these little kind of summer. Some of these backstories are quite long, others are relatively short. But we try to link it up through the ways people talked about or reference the objects which often through families and family connections. So this is a quite a simple one. [Inaudible] who is a woman who worked in World War Two elsewhere in the steel mills. And so again, we’re trying to use these backstories as a way to talk about the objects and the donors. And you didn’t really see that in these two examples. But for in cases where we have oral histories, which would be trying to pull directly, comment, comments from the world histories themselves, or stories that people told and actually pull those stories and quotations from the oral histories into the discussion of the objects themselves. Okay, so I think maybe I’ll hand it over to Chris and Jeff here for discussion and about the storylines.
Chris Boebel 53:02
Okay, thanks. Um, so let me share my screen. So, to this point, you know, as Jeff mentioned, the site is really divided into two sections, there’s the archive, which is the objects we save. That’s kind of how we were describing that. And then there’s the stories we tell. And all of the things that Chris has been talking about, so far, are all part of the archive, part of the art the objects we save, quote, unquote. So those are a number of strategies for telling those stories and connect making those connections that I was talking about before. But one of the chief ways that we’re we’re attempting to do that is in the other part of the website, the stories we tell. And this is where we’re putting together what we call storylines, which are basically broader, more sweeping, or sort of more significant stories that are pulled entirely with objects from the archive. And to date, we’ve completed one and we’re in the middle of doing the second. The first one, which Jeff and I are going to just talk about very, very quickly. It’s called Mexican American journey. And it’s about the Mexican American experience over you know, a century essentially, in the neighborhood. It ties obviously to other immigrant experiences. There are a lot of commonalities, but there are also a lot of things that are very different about about the Mexican American journey. So each of these, each of these stories begins with an object. And in this case, the object is this display of dog tags, replica dog tags. These are the dog tags that belong To the young men who died in Vietnam from the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, the local Catholic parish that was primarily Mexican American. And in fact, more young men from that parish were killed in Vietnam than from any other parish in the country. So they suffered very, very heavily during the Vietnam War. And this object, which is part of the museum collection, becomes a springboard for our attempt to explore this, this Mexican American experience over many generations. So we we introduced the object, we learn a tiny bit about it. And then the first thing that we do in each of these stories is we meet someone who has a connection to the object might be the Creator, it might be someone who has a very significant story that relates to the object. In this case, it’s not the Creator, it’s Mary Flores, who is a woman whose brother was killed in Vietnam. And in fact, one of these dogtags is his. So we start with a very short video of Mary which I’ll, I’ll see if it will play.
Mary Flores 56:09
I know all the young men that passed away in Our Lady of Guadalupe and father Maloney, he says, He says, I’ve never seen so many of our young men from a parish die, you know, but my brother was the first one it was killed. And that’s rubbish there. They all from our neighborhood, from South Chicago. My name is Mary Flores. And I’ve been in Chicago since 1949. When I first came to Chicago, I didn’t like it, because I’m from Oklahoma, and my father used to be a coal miner. And he lost his job. We came here and all the steel mills were going down and a coke plant and everything was so ugly, and you see all that graphite flying around, I told my mother, I don’t like the city, I like being on a farm instead, you know, she said, she told me Oh, you’re crazy. There were 17 of us that were second to the oldest. I remember, I used to carry the kids on my hip and their diapers and all of that and hang clothes and take them down and chase after the kids. It’s my brother, Tony, he was the oldest. And he was killing Korea at the age of 17. Joseph was one of my younger brothers, and then he went into Vietnam. And then he was killed in January 1966. Oh, my God, my mother, she she, she was beside herself, because she had already lost one son in Korea. Now the second one. She wasn’t herself anymore. After that. year, we give them birth, and they’re taken away. And they don’t come back. that a lot of a lot of military family. Three didn’t make it. You know, they wanted to fight for our country. So they did. It’s just something that they’re proud that they’re proud to be an American, you know.
Chris Boebel 58:07
So from here, we broaden out to the community. And this is a mural that’s painted on the wall of a building right by the church. And the church is really the center of the community, you can see the spider. So so we move out from there, too. And I’m not going to go through painstakingly. But we move to tell the story about Mexican American Immigration that attempts to sort of get at, you know, the place of the Mexican American community, Mexican, Mexican immigrants in America and racism, the sense of patriotism, the sense of belonging, or not belonging, over, as I said, over 100 years, and all of the objects in the story are from the collection. And you can always actually find them in the collection with this tab here. So if I click this, I would go to the archive entry of this particular drawing. So we have all sorts of objects here, we have a, you know, blinking text, we try to do it only when needed. But obviously we’re trying to, to, to sort of connect make connections, sometimes hundreds of oral histories or hundreds of oral histories in in the museum. And these storylines draw very heavily on oral histories. So Jeff, do you want to go look at a talk about any particular part of this?
Jeff Soyk 59:41
Um, yeah, no, I think I mean, you cover a lot of it. And really, we’re just trying to kind of create a nice, thoughtful flow, you know, kind of, obviously you have to kind of work through a story and kind of outlining process and then also concern a lot of the media as Chris mentioned, there’s so much to pull from You know, Christine, was trying to kind of distill a lot of what is there, and then we had to kind of, and then, you know, we’ll try and put this into, you know, story with with an arc that can, that we could, we actually had like visual media and things that we could make use of. But we also, we had a sound designer, Billy Resnick, who he pulled from actual videos from the archive as well, like, at one point, we have some parade sounds. And he got that from a Mexican, Mexican American parade that was in the archive. And we’re able to use for some of the atmospheric
Chris Boebel 1:00:34
soundscapes. This is Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is the church that I talked about at the beginning. And we’re hearing a service in church.
Jeff Soyk 1:00:42
Right. So it’s like an actual church service that was recorded by someone on the ground there. We weren’t able to travel there. ourselves. So we ended up hiring someone who’s local to record that sermon there. So So yeah, it’s it’s kind of you know, it’s a mixture of mostly driven by materials from Museum, but then kind of complemented by some visual texts and sound design and some original, you know, some video work and some other pieces of media.
Chris Boebel 1:01:13
Because of the my sister, I showed the photo of the Martinez sisters early. So this is a really, really great, rich oral history that they that they did quite a few years ago, that’s part of the collection. So anyway, so the story, you know, we again, we’re not going to sort of go through it point by point, but it goes, it goes through this sort of long journey of, of this community and, and the sort of moments when they flourished in the moments when they faced all sorts of challenges. And then at the end, we end with Mary Flores. Again. I don’t know if I’ll show that video or not.
It’ll take too long.
Jeff Soyk 1:01:54
All it shows is likely to open the menu. It has to open the menu yet know the menu. Yeah. I mean, click Close that menu. tab.
Chris Boebel 1:02:08
Oh, yeah. Oh, right. Right. So this is, um, this is, again, a very important part, because as I said, you know, we want to link these stories with the archive itself. So here, you can see, you know, these are the objects that make it up. These are the ones that we’ve already experienced. And then you actually see, you know, they’re grayed out right now, because we haven’t gotten to them yet. But those are objects to come into in the story. So you can jump back to, you know, any of these pictures, any of these oral histories or other objects.
Jeff Soyk 1:02:39
And if you click, if you click on View, you might have an archive. Yeah. You know, we’ll launch it, we’ll go to that item in the archive, right. So we’re kind of allowing the user to decide whether or not they want to deep dive into any of those items and spend time with it in the archive. Before returning back to the story, right.
Chris Boebel 1:02:58
You know, in in the archive, there might be a backstory, there might be some other elements that you know, Chris has already talked about. So that’s, this is the one that we’ve completed. We have three more that we’re working on. And one of them. The next one that we’re working on that we have roughed out is about a very, very important event that happened in labor history in the area, the Memorial Day Massacre that occurred in 1937. on Memorial Day, when 10 steel striking silver workers were shot and killed during a peaceful protest during what was essentially called the police riot at the time. They were just gunned down by the police. So we don’t have a lot to show you. But we do have the opening video. And I think maybe we can end with that. The the object that everything springs out of this is a really, really amazing object. It’s a scrapbook that was put together by a young woman whose fiance soon to be husband was one of the strikers and you know, people who grew up in the Midwest may remember their moms grandma’s great grandma’s making scrapbooks. often they’re about weddings, or, you know, birthdays, or funerals, or big life events, christenings, this one is a scrapbook about a massacre. And it’s a really, really powerful object. So, Jeff, do you do Should we just show the mic bars on video and then kind of in there?
Jeff Soyk 1:04:27
Chris Boebel 1:04:27
So you if you have that here, I’ll stop sharing.
Jeff Soyk 1:04:30
Okay. So this is just kind of like a rough early pass. So it actually looks a little different than the Mexican American story, even though it’s gonna follow the same format. Okay, let’s get to the text here. But same idea and then introducing a starting with objects. So in this case, it’s the scrapbook and then kind of transitioning to a resident that has some kind of personal connection to That object. So in this case, it’s Mike Borozon on whose mother made the scrapbook jump into this video. Actually, no it is to make sure I have the computer sound here.
Mike Borozon 1:05:31
My mom kept a good book. This is where I grew up as a kid on 100 and 17th. in Buffalo, this dirt road still looks the same as it did when I was growing up here. pear tree right here. And the steel mill was right there. When we lived here, my dad would walk to work. There used to be a brick factory over there. But I guess when the 1937 strike hit, this was all prairie, except for the few houses that were here. And from I remember from that day is what my mom and dad told me. They were pickling, the steel mill, all my family was here. My mom, my dad, my uncles, they were all here because they wanted to form the union back in them days, you know, they had no rights as workers. Then although, as my dad would say the balls can run down the hill with turn nightsticks, shooting people beaten people. And they say got pretty violent. They seen many of their friends getting hit with the billy clubs. Scene, a couple of people had died. Fallen next to him. That was 1937 Memorial Day. Yeah, all this all this happened right here.
Chris Boebel 1:07:07
So that’s the field where the massacre actually occurred, which was right next to his mom’s house when she was growing up. So Chris, do you want to just kind of wrap up for a couple minutes, and then we can do questions.
Christine Walley 1:07:21
And, yeah, I mean, just to kind of leave time, because we don’t have a lot of time, I think the best I can kind of just jump into the q&a. But just to just quickly, you know, a final thought, you know, again, this whole project has been very collaborative, in a lot of ways, in built on interaction with the community. In the website itself, there’s not a lot of space for people to like, say add new stories or other things, not because we didn’t want to have that bit because the people, the monitors at the museum were afraid of being overwhelmed with stuff and work. And they already have this Facebook group that has like 6000 people, so they’re asking us to send the traffic of people who want to talk or donate things over to the the existing Facebook page that’s already there.
But in other ways, you know, I mean, again, it’s been collaborative from, you know, in terms of, you know, who donated the stuff, and how it’s built on the museum and the community itself, you know, going back to folks in the community to talk about what these objects mean to them, you know, pulling on their knowledge about these materials for our backstories and other materials. And, you know, the plan for the future, we’re working right now on a study guide for teachers in the area and others. And the whole idea, again, is to spark community conversations. Right. So this is meant to, in some ways, be again, a, you know, a prompt for conversation back and forth, both within the area and also with people and other regions as well. So that’s, you know, kind of the next stage after we have the official launch and get this stuff finished, is the next stage is again, getting back to collaborative work with the community kind of using this tool to spark a range of conversation. So, you know, we don’t exactly know where that’s going to go yet. But, but but that’s the that’s the plan. And we’ve done that with the Exit Zero book and Phil, where we have had a lot of community screenings of the Exit Zero film and they’ve been very powerful in some ways, because often people would kind of get up and kind of witness their own family’s experiences of deindustrialization. So we’re hoping that this one again, because it’s kind of so spread out a range of different families and their stories and individuals in different neighborhoods, talking about what their experiences were coming in some cases from very different positions. And using that as a you know, kind of prompts again, to be people getting people to reflect on their own history. And so anyway, so please, let’s open it up for a conversation and apologies for not having any more time for the q&a, because we really love to hear what you all are thinking.
Vivek Bald 1:09:56
Thank you so much. I usually jump In ask a question, taking advantage of my status as host, but I’m not going to do that I do have questions, but I wanted to just open it up more broadly to everyone. Laura,
Laura Partain 1:10:20
I want to thank you for your presentation. I’m actually from Wisconsin. And so this just felt it felt close to me and just kind of my experiences also growing up in around the communities, and some some similar to this. So I’m the design of the website just looks elegant and accessible. And I really appreciate the measures you took to make it that way. My question for you, which you somewhat answered already, is that it sounds like you’re designing tools for teachers to use. But have you seen this being used pedagogically already has the community already taken it in certain ways, besides showing the film taking this and already begun to use it as a teaching tool? Because they just think it’s incredible. And I’m kind of curious to see what they’ve already come up with if they have.
Christine Walley 1:11:12
We’re working on the study guide right now and in conversation with community leaders about you know, interfacing with teachers in the public schools and how we might want to use this as a disseminate it within the community also, through, you know, a lot of people, one of the things that’s tough about this, a lot of people in the area have phones, and the archive itself works well on phones. The storylines are very data intensive. So that’s going to be an issue for people who don’t have laptops. So we really want to try to get it out to the community through the schools then for where, for example, where people would have more access to laptops, or the local public libraries, which a lot of people go rely on those heavily to be able to access computer. So trying to do kind of community viewing events at the library, you know, both kind of community events, and then having people kind of give their feedback on stuff. And so that’s all still sort of in process yet. So we don’t fully know yet exactly how it’s going to be taken up. But we’re, we’re hopeful that people will make real use of it.
Vivek Bald 1:12:24
Ámbar Reyes 1:12:27
Hi, thank you so much for your presentation. It’s really impressive, all the work that you have been doing in the archives. And I was wondering if you have consider expanding the archive to bring into the prison, you know, like, I saw that you were interviewing people, but then I was wondering if those people also have stories, right, and also have like, important objects. So if you start like collecting those and expanding the story, it could create, like a broader picture of the whole town. I know, it’s a lot of work. But I guess I was just wondering, yeah.
Christine Walley 1:13:04
Yeah, I don’t know if, if Chris has other thoughts on this as well. But the other two storylines that we want to do. One is about the impact of deindustrialization, the loss of the steel industry on the community. And the last one is on environmental activism. There’s a lot of industrial pollution. So the environmental activism story goes up into the contemporary period to like, you see, you see where that the Memorial Day Massacre strike happen. That’s now a brownfield that’s toxic. And there’s a lot of space and stuff, the Chicago that’s just toxic, empty brownfield. So community environmental activists in the area. So that’s a storyline that goes up to the current moment. So and we do want this become to become a site where it’s both about the past, but using the past as a ways, again, to connect generations and think about the future. What what’s the future for old industrial communities like this? And so we would love to think that, you know, about, you know, some of the stuff, you know, you’re suggesting about, you know, if, you know, again, we have to work with the community volunteers because they don’t want to be overwhelmed. So how to do it in a way where you can take in more, you know, maybe if some people and volunteering where we can kind of think about creating other kinds of ways then to access newer material and attach it to the site. So that’s something you know, we’d like to think about moving forward. I don’t have Chris or Jeff, if you had other
Chris Boebel 1:14:25
was, I would just say, yeah, so I was the environmental activism story that that storyline The, the object that it comes out of is a jar of petcoke. Petcoke is a toxic material that’s leftover from oil refining, tar sands, oil refining. And, and so that was collected a couple of years ago by a bunch of relatively young activists, a lot of them are moms who have children who live in the community, who become very, very adamantly opposed to some of the more recent You know, there’s a long history of toxic pollution in the area, but the more recent sort of, you know, levels of it. So, so yeah, we we are very interested in bringing it into the contemporary period. But it is a it’s an enormous amount of work. And it’s all volunteered, you know, the museum is all volunteer. So, you know, we are assisting in the organizing and so on of the collection, the collection remains the communities.
Ámbar Reyes 1:15:27
Vivek Bald 1:15:30
There are a couple of questions in in chat. So I’ll go to those for a moment. So from from Greg, curious about how you hope members of the community use the online project to share their oral stories, with family and friends as they would if sitting on a couch while thumbing through an old family scrapbook photo album. How do you hope they recreate that shared social experience?
Christine Walley 1:16:06
Chris, you want to tackle that one or?
Chris Boebel 1:16:10
Well, yeah, I mean, I think that’s a great question. You know, one of the one of the issues that we have right now, which you know, is a huge, it’s a huge developmental lift is the fact that the storylines don’t work particularly well on phones, they’re quite glitchy. So the archive, as Chris said, is better. You know, I think I would like to think that, you know, people got huddled around a laptop, we know that in practice, that doesn’t always happen. phones are really kind of the center of social, the social world for a lot of people and is more virtual, it’s not like sitting on the couch together unnecessarily, although, although our son does that with his friends. So, you know, I can very easily imagine people sharing this on a phone, either when they’re in the same space or in different spaces. The laptop, which of course, as MIT people we all have, is less of a common item. I
Jeff Soyk 1:17:10
will say, though, I mean, we are looking at this work on tablets, it’s more just like for the storyline part, like the archive itself is definitely mobile friendly. Yeah, right, online. The thing is, it’s kind of like, you’re doing a disservice to users, if you expect them to download all that media, their data plan on a phone, you could blast someone’s data plan pretty quickly. So but I mean, if you’re on Wi Fi with a tablet, that is certainly a potential option site that could be more conducive to what you’re describing.
Christine Walley 1:17:39
And something else we had talked about. But again, we were kind of overwhelmed with how much work it would take him, but would still be a good idea, if you can put the GPS coordinates in for the various objects. And yeah, because there’s a lot of old photos of particular places, because then I could definitely see a lot of people with their phones, walking around to various parts in the neighborhood that might have been like, you know, because like the site, we didn’t show this. But at the end of the Mexican American journey story, you go back to the south works, which was the biggest mill in that area, which is now all brownfield. And so you actually at the ruins of the brownfield, they actually had a recent Day of the Dead event, where Mexican Americans of the community were honoring their ancestors who had worked in the museum. So that’s pretty powerful. They’re at the road. So you can see people with their phones and runs like that, looking up the images of the time period. But again, you know, getting all the GPS data and setting that up. It’s, you know, time and money. So we have lots of things we’d love to do if we had
Chris Boebel 1:18:35
One last point about it. So because of the industrial industrialization, the economic challenges that the areas faced for, you know, the last more than 20 years, there’s been kind of a diaspora of people, you know, a lot of people have moved away, but who still feel really tightly connected to the area. So there, as Chris mentioned, I think there’s a really strong Facebook presence that the museum has a very, very lively Facebook group, people are always commenting, always sharing things. So I think that the archive part and hopefully the storylines as well as you know, on tablets, or laptops, can kind of be taken up into that diaspora ecosystem so that people are kind of doing what they might do with a photo album, but doing it across, you know, great distances.
Christine Walley 1:19:29
I just want to say in relation to one of the other questions in the chat about relationships with other Chicago based institutions that have archives of museums. So the advisory, there’s an advisory group for this project, and includes somebody from the Chicago History Museum and the Field Museum. And so they’ve been fantastically helpful in all of this. And actually, what the guy we’ve been working with the Chicago History Museum, he actually has his PhD in in Slavic studies, so he’s volunteering to translate some of the Serbian and Croatian materials for us, which has been, which has been fantastic. So we are in connection with those folks. And they actually through the Field Museum, they’re trying to create a consortium of institutions across the Calumet region to bring together different kinds of archival collections. This is kind of like the biggest one. But there’s a number of other kind of small, historic historical collections in Gary, Indiana also has some industrial archives there. So trying to create a kind of a consortium of groups as well, and then hooking them up through the Field Museum and the Chicago History Museum. So more users can find those spaces. So we are trying to kind of create those connections. Also folks at the Mexican Museum of Art in south and southwest Chicago, as well.
Chris Boebel 1:20:49
Hey, looking at the chat, I see that there’s a question about the curation of the storylines and the creation of them. And just because that’s like, a very challenging process. I don’t know if we want to say a couple of words about that. I know, Jeff, you’re, you’re kind of always, you know, like, like shouldering the burden there. I don’t know if you have anything to say it. To answer that one.
Jeff Soyk 1:21:11
[Inaudible] articulated the question, it sounds to me like it might be more about, like choosing the materials to use and whose voices are heard. So like, what? Yeah, kind of the selection process, right, the media, and then the materials that we’re using, right, which I think relates to the narrative process, broadly speaking, which is also Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it’s narrative process. But I guess I’ll also say it’s also, you know, plays into like, Christine, if you want to talk about, you know, how you’re sharing this with the committee, and, you know, various community members that are a bit getting incorporated into these stories as well. There’s that part of it too,
Christine Walley 1:21:54
and just to say with is part of from the beginning of the project. And also, as we were working on the grants for the National Endowment for the Humanities, we worked with the advisory community, which has community reps and the different volunteers from from the different volunteers on the board of the museum. And we kind of talked through, you know, we tried to pick stuff based on what’s in the museum itself, you know, so, again, trying to honor the kind of categories that people had in terms of like, you know, for certain topics that, you know, again, the military topic, there’s a ton of stuff. So as an anthropologist, that’s really interesting, why is there so much stuff, and military here. So that’s been an interesting one to ponder. So we’ve tried to kind of honor the kind of categories around which people were donating stuff. But then another instance is we try to like if we knew, for example, by the time steel mills ended, about a third of the workers were white, again, largely Eastern European, about a third with Mexican American and African American, and in turn, you know, so we, you know, but again, there’s, there’s some gaps within the museum’s collection itself. So in those cases, where we know that is kind of reflective of the actual social life of the area, trying to make more prominent, certain voices that might be getting lost in the stuff because we know that’s historically accurate, to the place. And so that played a role as well. So we went through with the Advisory Committee, what are the stuff we want to prioritize and emphasize? And how do we kind of create balance in these kinds of ways, both honoring kind of what people donated and why they thought it was important, but also making sure that we’re addressing gaps gaps are there. So we went through that kind of process, then of deciding what kind of stuff to emphasize? And then Jeff had a huge influence as well as like, kind of what stuff is arresting in aesthetic terms that we, you know, that people would, you know, enjoy looking at, which was definitely part of the process as well, if you’ve got 300 pictures of a steel mill, right, which one, which ones are the exciting ones to look at? And anyway,
Vivek Bald 1:23:54
I’m going to take another question from the QA. This is from Mimi, who asks this, or who says, this is an awesome project. Thank you so much. Can you show an example of an entry on the back end? I don’t know whether Jeff, you’re set up to do that. And if not, it would, it would certainly be interesting to to hear a bit about the code side of this
Jeff Soyk 1:24:20
Backend? Yeah, I mean, so this is built on WordPress. So if any of you have used WordPress, it’s pretty, pretty standard. You know, it’s customized and everything of our back end developer, Jared. You know, I could, I could try pulling it up real quick. The storylines are very custom. That’s not really anything that we have a back end for, because that’s like a very tailored thing. We’ve been kind of creating and kind of shaping as we make them. So that’s something we’re just kind of building manually. And it’s just a matter it would be a massive thing, like making a platform from scratch. So we just don’t have the kind of resources, resources and capacity to do that. The storylines. But for the archive side, we definitely, you know, it’s all WordPress based. So I can go jump in here. Here’s your typical WordPress dashboard. We have a featured curation section, we have our here’s the archive, jump into there. So if I just jump into one of the individual entries, this is actually speaking to another piece of software called ArchivesSpace at the museum’s using to kind of catalog everything in there in the archive. So the archivist, Derek works very much with those records. He’s like a session records in the archive. And he inputs A lot of the metadata there. And then we’re actually putting in the unique ID from those records. And that’s actually drawing from ArchivesSpace and pulling in that data into WordPress. So we actually do have two kinds of databases that are speaking to each other for this project. And then we have the ability to kind of add additional metadata on top of that. And you’ll obviously articulate if it’s like if this item is a part of the feature curation, if it’s a part of the storyline, we can add a call to action for the storyline as a part of adding color of rights information, you know, put up the thumbnail, if it’s something on YouTube as a piece, if it’s a video, get the link to the YouTube video on the channel. And then, of course, see all the filters and everything are these checkboxes on the right hand side.
Vivek Bald 1:26:51
So how are those two integrated the the database that you’re pulling from that there? Is that custom code that you’re writing? manually? Or is there is there some existing you know, plugin, or you know, how much of it is, is sort of, you know, pushing beyond what, what WordPress allows you to do? And kind of customizing it in a very, you know, line by line way?
Jeff Soyk 1:27:25
Yeah, well, I mean, you know, WordPress is pretty much a blank canvas, there’s like, just a foundational framework. And then so this is definitely customized, but um, you know, in terms of some of the unique functionality, the fact that it is pulling, so ArchivesSpace has an API. So that allows it to, you know, kind of making data accessible to external programs. So we’re tapping into ArchivesSpace API to draw from its data to pull into here. And then there’s going to like an automated kind of check, you know, the frequency we have get to decide, but it might be like every week or so where there were WordPress will look back to ArchivesSpace and see if anything has changed, then automatically make updates, you know, but the main unique relationship here is that ArchivesSpace really would be the place where the museum would go to kind of organize their collection and keep keep tabs on it, and be able to find things. And then this WordPress, and his website is more like once they decide they want to feature something digital archive and make it more public. That’s when it kind of, you know, leaps over to this website, and becomes a new added item to this because obviously, we only have about 1000 items on this site. But the museum itself has thousands of items. And they’re not all going to end up on this website. So I’d say that relationship between those two programs are pretty unique. And it’s definitely This is like, you know, in terms of the combination of functions that we put here, it’s very, very custom. We definitely made use of certain pre existing, you know, WordPress functionalities, or functions to make this happen. Thanks. Yeah, yeah, in a nutshell, without going too crazy detail. I’m trying to keep it pretty simple.
Vivek Bald 1:29:11
Other questions from from the group? Well, I so I’ll finally ask a question. And it sort of goes back to the question about, you know, the choices that you’re making in terms of the storylines. It seems like the storylines are, you know, it sounds like they’re quite labor intensive. And, and, you know, each one, like, you know, just the one that you showed, you know, you can see how much care and thought and time went into it. And so I’m wondering about, you know, over time, you know, do you see how many of the storylines? Do you see? Creating? And is this something that would you see as, as an ongoing project where you know, every six months or something or every certain amount of time over the first few years, you’re continuing to add these stories? Or, you know, what’s, what’s that that kind of longer term picture for the storyline aspect of the site?
Christine Walley 1:30:43
I don’t know who wants to field that one. Go ahead, Chris.
Chris Boebel 1:30:49
Oh, So right now we have plans for four. And the four, I guess Chris mentioned them, the Mexican American experience, it’s the Memorial Day Massacre, environmental challenges in the area and activism, which is a much more contemporary story. And then deindustrialization, which is a historical story, but a little bit more recent history, 80s and 90s. They are really labor intensive. And they require essentially funding. So the we got a supplemental grant from another foundation to do a couple of additional ones, which is why we now have plans for for, and I think doing more is kind of a wonderful idea. But also requires requires funding. One of the things that that again, we wanted to do was find other ways to weave stories into the archive, which is why the backstories, which are much more, you know, much less labor intensive, the feature curations. And then a third sort of direction, which Jeff could talk about if he if we have time, something we call store storylines, which are, are some very straight paths, which which is a little bit like a story line, what you saw but much lighter in terms of the the design elements, the design work and the sort of shaping of an arc. I know, Jeff, do you want to briefly describe that? Yeah, briefly,
Jeff Soyk 1:32:15
I mean, because I guess, you know, the interesting thing is kind of having these two kind of sections and storylines in the archive. And then being related to that idea, kind of pushing the archive a little bit in terms of his storytelling capabilities, is that we were kind of coming up with things that were making it lean a little bit towards the storyline side, but not go like full on into it, they still are kind of the separate spaces. But yeah, story paths. And I know we keep using the word story in like a lot of different ways. So we might have to change the name, we kind of worried about, you know, yeah, there’s a lot of different forms of story. But with the [inaudible] story path is that instead of, you know, curations are kind of just like a collective group of items that kind of fit under, you know, a shared theme. But a story path would be kind of like your thoughtfully kind of choosing a sequence of items in the collection, that might, if you were to follow it, and sequence actually have some kind of an interesting arc to them, it would almost be almost like a, like, in my mind, it’s almost like an animatic, or something, it’s like this kind of visual storyboard, or something you could follow. And if you if you go from like picture to picture to picture, you can actually see this visual narrative kind of unfolding. And it’s like one other way to kind of pump up the storytelling capability of the archive itself. Yes. Entertaining.
Chris Boebel 1:33:32
Yeah. The storylines with the complicated ones, you know, we start with essentially, what’s an animatic? You know, it could be a PowerPoint, or a Google doc or something. So this would be Yeah, like a stripped down version of that, without, you know, designed, you know, because it would be based on a nice design, but not custom designed, I think, right? The other you know, sound design and stuff that really takes a lot of the effort and energy and time,
Jeff Soyk 1:33:59
and they kind of kind of invites the user to fill in the gaps themselves a little bit or kind of do a little bit more the investigating themselves, you know, sort of providing the the main kind of keyframes, and they can kind of choose to read up more about the individual items and kind of fill in the study of the narrative gaps a little bit on their own. Yeah,
Chris Boebel 1:34:19
I think the whole the whole idea is right, so you have the archive, the archive is the thing. And I always think of it I always think kind of archived first, right, it’s an archive, and you can explore the archive in a lot of different ways. And maybe it seems confusing that there are a lot of sort of story, story story ways of exploring it, but I feel like really, it’s an archive. And once you get into the archive, then you can discover, oh my gosh, you know, like there’s a featured curation or you know, there’s a story path, this item leads to that item. This one has a backstory, or you can go and just embrace the full on storylines as well. However, many of those that there end up being so so it’s an archive first. And then we’re trying to make all these internal connections that supplement and enhance. And as I was saying, you know, bring out the stories behind the objects, right, hopefully not in a confusing way where you know, you don’t really understand what you’re doing, you’re seeing, because what you’re seeing is an archive. Yep.
Christine Walley 1:35:21
And I just wanted to briefly say like, in terms of, again, this has taken an enormous amount of work, I think far more than any of this of us anticipated when we got involved with it. So I just want to give a huge shout out to Jeff who’s done really extraordinary work in you know, in making it look really gorgeous at the same time. And then also seeing card sign up there, like current how helped back in the early days of thinking about this project. So thank you, thank you, Kurt. And just mentioning some other folks like, in addition, our archivist has done an enormous amount of work again, like you taking the community attic and trying to get it all organized. And the director of the museum, who’s a volunteer guy who’s been volunteering for many years, you know, he, you know, like, every item, we’re constantly going to him and like, What do you know about this rod, we can’t find any information and like, just just an extraordinary amount of work, and over decades that he put into kind of preserving these these items and making sure that they’re, they’re kind of around that there’s information on them. So, anyways, I just wanted to give a, you know, again, a recognition of how much this has been an enormous team effort. You know, and you can see, when people you know, you know, why there probably hasn’t been a lot like this, you should an enormous amount of work to do this kind of thing. And, you know, anyway, but you know, it’s it’s been it’s, it’s, it’s been great. We’ll see. We’ll see how it goes. But it is a huge team effort to do something like this.
Vivek Bald 1:37:00
So we’ve gone past time, but um, I think there was there was one other question from Tomas in the q&a. If, if you have a moment for for that, it’s a question about the platform. Why WordPress versus other archives specific platforms like Omeka?
Tomás Guarna 1:37:21
Oh, thank you, professor. But I think he largely responded by now. So okay, all right. Because this thing is awesome.
Vivek Bald 1:37:29
Okay, I think, um, I think time, our time is has come to an end. But this has been really incredible. And really, it’s such a rich, rich project. And you’re doing such beautiful work with it, you know, and, you know, that’s both meaningful and aesthetically beautiful. So I want to thank you for presenting and ask everyone else to join in, in giving your thanks, giving. Thanks. Thanks.
Christine Walley 1:38:10
Thank you all so much. It’s been great to have a chance to talk about the project with you all. So thank you.
Chris Boebel 1:38:15
Jeff Soyk 1:38:16
Thanks for joining. All right.
Vivek Bald 1:38:18
Take care, everyone.