Lisa J. here, reporting on my current project for the new permanent exhibit.  Recently I have been working on an exhibit we’re calling “A Day in the Life Of…”, which offers visitors a peek into the lives of immigrants who lived in the 19th Ward of Chicago as well as the lives of the Hull-House residents.

“Residents” are what we call the middle to upper class women and men who lived at Hull-House and contributed to the work of the settlement by teaching classes, conducting research on neighborhood conditions, etc.

Neighborhood Children

Neighborhood Children

Jane Addams Memorial Collection, Department of Special Collections, The University Library, The University of Illinois at Chicago. JAMC 112.

The Hull-House settlement was a place where different social classes interacted on a regular basis, which makes this exhibit really fun to put together.  Although the lives of immigrants (often called “neighbors” in Hull-House lingo) and residents were vastly different, their lives intersected at Hull-House: over a hot meal in the coffee house, around a work table in the ceramics studio, among basketballs and weights in the gymnasium, and within the library of the Hull mansion.

Teacher and Students in Pottery Class

Teacher, Students, and Dog in Pottery Class

Jane Addams Memorial Collection, Department of Special Collections, The University Library, The University of Illinois at Chicago. JAMC 956.

There a number of challenges with this exhibit, however.  One is that we don’t necessarily know exactly how particular residents and neighbors spent their days, which makes it hard to remain accurate while still giving an intimate picture of a person’s life.  The other challenge is how to compare the lives of immigrants and reformers, including their class differences, without reducing their lives to a stereotype.

Though it is true that the daily lives of many immigrants were extremely difficult due to exploitation in the workplace and dangerous living conditions, that isn’t the only way to understand their lives.  Immigrants are of course also producers of culture and knowledge and their passions, talents, and dreams must also be revealed to museum audiences.

Residents, too, have their own complex stories to tell.  They lived among their immigrant neighbors, but they also had full time work, family, and friends in prominent social circles.  Their successes (and failures) in passing through these two worlds can be difficult to convey.

Anyhow, I will report back on the exhibit once I work out a few more details.  Onward!


Joshua Viertel

Tune in to Chicago Amplified to hear a recording of Josh Viertel’s recent presentation at our Re-thinking Soup program!

Joshua Viertel, the first President of Slow Food USA, opened this Town Hall discussion by speaking about Slow Food USA’s vision for the U.S. about critical issues of access and equity regarding healthy food, nutrition, and well-being. The Hull-House Museum invited food activists, farmers, environmentalists, and anyone interested in these issues to come share their ideas and opinions.

Joshua Viertel has made significant contributions to the sustainable food movement in the past as a teacher, farmer, and activist, and, for the past 6 years, as a co-founder and co-director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project. At Yale, Viertel oversaw the University’s transition to a local sustainable food program, created and managed an organic farm on campus, and built educational and academic programming around food and agriculture. Under his leadership, the Yale Sustainable Food Project has earned a reputation as a leader in the national and international sustainable food movement. Viertel graduated from Harvard University with a degree in philosophy and literature. Before joining Yale, he worked as a teacher and as an organic farmer.

About Re-Thinking Soup: Every Tuesday from 12:00-1:30 PM, the Hull-House Museum hosts a modern day soup kitchen that is a public and communal event where we gather together and eat delicious, healthy, soup and have fresh, organic conversation about many of the urgent social, cultural, economic and environmental food issues that we should be addressing.

Recorded Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.

Tantalizing Texts

For us at the Hull-House, the NEH process is an exciting one, a dynamic two-way exchange of thought and practice. We’re engaged in a range of topics, and look to research to frame our ideas and actions. Sometimes the literature is serious, sometimes irreverent but always impassioned about the issues. A passion about our work and Jane Addams’ legacy is something we hope to get across in the new exhibit.

Here are some texts we are currently perusing about the (sometimes quirky) topic of wall labels:

Lavine, Steven D. Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1991.

Schaffner, Ingrid. “Wall Text.” What Makes a Great Exhibition? Paula Marincola, ed. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, 2006.

Serrell, Beverly. Exhibit Labels: An Interpretative Approach. Walnut Creek, Lanham, New York, and Oxford: Altamira Press and Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1996.

Yau, John. “Please Wait by the Cloakroom.” Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, ed. Russell Ferguson, Martha Gever and Trinh T. Minh-ha. New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1990.

The Hull-House Museum today

The Plan:

To create a new permanent exhibit for the museum, officially called “Jane Addams and the Hull-House Settlement: Redefining Democracy.”  We will unveil the exhibit around Jane Addams Day (December 10) in 2010, which gives us one very busy year to prepare.

The new exhibition will double our current exhibit space by opening the upstairs of the Hull-House Museum to the public for the first time.

The Players:

You’ll be hearing from some of these folks soon, but here’s a preview of the NEH team:

  • Amy- exhibit designer
  • Kelly- project coordinator, special assistant to the director
  • Lauren- graphic designer
  • Lisa J.- education coordinator
  • Lisa Lee- director
  • Michael- historic preservationist and facilities manager
  • Naomi- exhibition coordinator
  • Teresa- curatorial assistant

We also have a talented staff of part-timers:

  • Amanda- assistant to the education coordinator
  • Anna, Danielle, Joe, Margaret, Mekaila, Sean – museum educators
  • Edgar- assistant to the facilities manager
  • Ryan- farmer-in-residence
  • Tara- kitchen manager

The Museum:

The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum serves as a dynamic memorial to social reformer and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jane Addams (1860-1935) and other resident social reformers whose work influenced the lives of their immigrant neighbors as well as national and international public policy.  As Hull-House Settlement was a place where immigrants, social reformers, writers and others could imagine, convene and argue about the issues of the time, the Museum continues to provide a place to discuss and debate the contemporary social issues of today.  The Museum preserves and develops the original Hull-House site for the interpretation and continuation of the historic settlement house vision, linking research, education, and social engagement.

The Hull-House Settlement was founded in 1889 by social reformers Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr.  It was part of the world-wide Settlement House movement responding to problems created by urbanization, industrialization, and immigration.  The complex eventually included 13 buildings.  The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum opened in 1967 as a unit of the new University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) campus, retaining the original Hull Home, a National Historic Landmark built by real estate developer Charles Hull, and the Residents’ Dining Hall, a Chicago Historic Landmark.


Yesterday we had the most beautiful event at the museum. In honor of Jane Addams’s birthday we held our annual Conversation on Peace and Justice, and this year’s keynote speaker was none other than Grace Lee Boggs.

Grace Lee Boggs just celebrated her 94th birthday, so it was a real privilege for us to hear her speak in Chicago.  Bill Ayers noted how she is especially wise in her ability to take the long view when thinking of justice without giving up the “fierce urgency of now.”  I was especially impressed with Grace’s perspective on struggles in history and with involvement in today’s movements.  For example, she spoke of Will Allen at Growing Power and the importance of his work in looking at environmental and food access issues when an audience member asked for examples of the new revolution that Grace spoke of.  Kevin Coval introduced Grace with a poem that honored her work and struggle.

Some photos of the evening from metroblossom

More on Grace

Boggs Center

Grace’s speech will soon be available at Chicago Amplified.

Hello world!

Jane Addams may have run a “hull” of a house, but with a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, today’s women (and men!) of Hull-House are creating a dynamic new memorial to the social reformer and Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Check back to follow our process as we create a new permanent exhibit at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.