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“She was one of the most loved and hated women in America,”

-Louise Knight, Author

“We like to sanitize iconic heroes. Jane Addams was radical and fought against norms of the time. She believed in a common good, in which we all had a stake in each other’s future.”

-Lisa Lee, Hull-House Museum Director

Today’s Chicago Tribune has a wonderful article about Addams’ legacy and the celebrations surrounding her 150th birthday. Check it out!

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Lucy here. I’m the Hull-House Museum’s summer intern, here through funding from Smith College. Lisa Junkin gave me the special task of creating an entry for the famous Hull-House blog on whatever my heart desires! I figured I would report on developments in the room I’ve spent the most time in–the new library area.

The museum is looking so incredible these days, it makes me wish I weren’t going home before the September opening. Although I never saw the old exhibit in place, on my first day Lisa Lee took me on a quick tour of the mansion. This was after only one of the rooms had been painted and absolutely nothing of the new exhibition was in place.

At the end, we stopped by a room on the first floor, once a dining room for residents. When I think about that room I saw on my first day, I think ugly curtains hiding otherwise beautiful bottle-glass windows, I think peeling wall paper, I think, ugh!

But nowadays, our library area couldn’t be more incredible.

Glorious, historically accurate terracotta paint! Exquisite furnishings! Spectacular artwork! A couple of exhibits completed by a certain lucky intern!

It’s no surprise that I chose this room in particular to write about. For one thing, a lot of essential elements of the exhibit are in place, so it’s easy to imagine how it will look. But also, this is where two of my main projects of the summer will live. One is a globe that demonstrates Jane Addams’ world travels. Did you know that Addams went to Europe nine times throughout her life in addition to traveling to Egypt, India, The Philippines, Mexico, China, and Japan?

The other exhibit I’ve been working on is called the bookshelf project. It’s pretty neat—one shelf will display books from Addams’ personal collection (those will be behind glass). The other shelves will be filled with about 45 books that are written by reformers, residents, and other figures with a connection to Hull-House. I loved researching for this exhibit. I learned about John Dewey and pragmatism, the Pullman Strike, WILPF, suffrage, and much, much more.

Jane Addams' signature from a book she owned

For each book, I composed a bookmark that points out interesting pages or passages, gives background information, and explains the book’s connection to Hull-House.Visitors will be able to pick these books off the shelves, (hopefully read the informative bookmark!) and flip through the pages to get an idea of the wide array of subjects connected to Hull-House and Addams.

Reading was central to Addams. Not only was she the author of many books and speeches, she knew that books had the power to inspire and change. In my research for the exhibit I came across an anecdote from Louise deKoven Bowen about Jane Addams’ dedication to reading. When Addams was notified that the ambulance was late to take her to the last operation she had before she died she replied, “That’s all right, for that will give me time to finish the book I am reading.”

All of the formatting is done and now we just need to print them out and put them in their books. Many of the furnishings are in place, and the art work (all completed by artists connected to Hull-House) is up on the walls. Very exciting stuff!

As today is my last day, I know I’ll be spending more time in this room figuring out finishing touches for the bookshelf. I hope I’ll have a chance to sit in the rocking chair and take in the space one more time. More importantly, I hope that in a few weeks visitors will stop by this room to reflect and discuss, examine and read.

Elegant gray walls in the Receiving Room

… that a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference. It sure seems to be true here at Hull-House, where we’re putting the final touches on our renovations.

Mike Plummer, our Historic Preservationist, took these photos of the house last week. We’ll have more shots once we begin installing the artifacts.

We are less than ONE MONTH away from our re-opening on September 7th. Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes updates…

The back parlor has terra cotta walls... just like when Jane Addams lived here.

I can't believe this used to be our office! It looks much better now.

“I promise (and I hope you will too) to have a cup of tea, put a few pennies in the donation box, or buy a little something in the shop EVERY time I visit a museum.”

Find out why at The Attic.

Apologies for the silence… we are so busy preparing for our new permanent exhibit that there is little time for blogging!  Never fear, we are documenting our process and perhaps we’ll be able to put it on the website after the fact.

Please look forward to the new exhibit, debuting on August 24th. Until then, visitors are welcome to check out our Urban Heirloom Farm.  The vegetables are growing, the rabbits are hopping, and soon we’ll have fish swimming!

Sean, working hard

We had to interview Sean before he graduates! Sean is a senior at UIC with a double major in history and philosophy. He has been working with us for nine months, and we have a lot of appreciation for his in-depthknowledge of labor history and his social and political activism.  Congratulations on your graduation and best of luck, Sean!

What is it like to be a museum educator at the Hull-House Museum?

Being a museum educator is interesting because though you study the history of the Hull House, you find that when you’re engaging people about the issues, you end up learning more about the people who remain dedicated and interested to these still relevant topics.  In that way the dialogue continues between those who visit the house and those who work here.  This means this aspect of the Hull House remains alive and well.

Any memorable encounters with the public?

There are numerous encounters I will always remember, but what they all share in common is the special relation visitors express to the Hull House.  From around the world, social workers visit the museum because they believe it’s important to see the beginnings of the work which inspired them to follow the paths they chose.  This gives me a great appreciation for the for the work that I do, along with a deep sense of responsibility, because I believe it is my job to reinforce that drive and determination many of our visitors possess.

What is your favorite artifact?

My favorite artifact is Jane Addams’ FBI file.  It shows that speaking one’s mind and following a moral imperative has always and will continue to be a subversive act.  The point of the file and the display itself is not that people were mistaken to believe that Jane Addams was dangerous, but that sometimes doing the right thing will make you dangerous to some.  And more importantly, this could be a good thing.

What do you do when you’re not at work?
When not at work, I’m mostly involved in student activism and organizing.  I participate in a number of student boards on campus dedicated to advocating for student rights, specifically on the topics of recruitment and tuition.  I also work with organizations in surrounding neighborhoods to lobby for the rights of undocumented students and those disproportionally impacted by the policies of neighboring universities.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

In the next decade I wish to establish myself in the practice of civil rights and labor law.  I have a respect for the judicial system, and like any system it must not simply be followed but also used to set precedent.  I also believe these two categories of law are deeply connected and that social change can be brought about in many locations, whether it be the classroom, the streets, or also the courtroom.

Another fascinating staff member for you to meet: Ryan!  Ryan might have the most unique job among us as Hull-House Farmer-in-Residence.  He tends to our 1/2 acre organic, heirloom farm with great care and experience.  Come visit him at the SE corner of Halsted and Taylor Street.

Interested in volunteering at the farm?  Contact Kelly Saulsberry at ksuzanne [at] uic [dot] edu