All posts tagged: Midwest History

Landscape of What is the Midwest? exhibition at The Newberry Library

What is the Midwest?

“Place is a home, be it homestead, henhouse, town, nest, den, or cave. Place is renewal. It is history and hope for those who dwell there.” —Jill Metcoff “Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers.” —Andrew Jackson, 1829 State of the Union Address The door is a question mark, one that also punctuated the title of the recent Newberry Library exhibition What is the Midwest? It’s a question I’ve been stuck on for years now, as I’ve grown and felt the tugging that can only happen after you have sprouted roots in a place. This question of place functions as storage organ for the words and images produced by creators in the region. It is a lonely sort of potato. It can power the work – we feel we have to prove our place – or drag us down – we feel we have to prove our place. Writer Dorothy Allison grew up in one such no-place, “the place that is no place for most other people.” The truck stop. …

Cruising the Archives: Chicago’s Gerber/Hart Library and Archives

“Often by chance, via out-of-the-way card catalogues, or through previous web surfing, a particular ‘deep’ text, or a simple object (bobbin, sampler, scrap of lace) reveals itself here at the surface of the visible, by mystic documentary telepathy. Quickly — precariously — coming as it does from an opposite direction. If you are lucky, you may experience a moment before.” — Susan Howe, “The Telepathy of Archives” This past February, an initiative to pull books containing “LGBTQ content” from a public library swept through Orange City, Iowa. While the campaign wasn’t successful, its intentions remain the stuff of relatively recent Midwestern history. This is to say that when the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives was founded in 1981, patrons couldn’t necessarily count on finding their own experiences and narratives reflected in the shelves of public libraries — while queer content might not have been explicitly banned, it was certainly a blind spot in most mainstream collections. Named after Henry Gerber (founder of the first American gay rights association incorporated in Illinois) and Pearl Hart (one of Chicago’s …