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"What Is the Midwest?" Opens at the Newberry

969 Days ago

Exhibition challenges stereotypes about the Midwest through both historical and contemporary materials spanning 400 years.

Chicago, Sept. 19, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Often called "the Heartland" or "flyover country," the Midwest tends to be characterized as a homogeneous, barren space between the American coasts.

What Is the Midwest?, a new exhibition opening at the Newberry on Friday, September 20, challenges the assumptions, stereotypes, and persistent narratives about the Midwest, exploring the confluence of peoples, places, and environments that has defined the region and made it unique.

“Stereotypes about the Midwest tend to either focus on its natural features or romanticize it as a peaceful utopia immune from the highs and lows of American history,” said Alice Schreyer, Vice President for Collections and Library Services at the Newberry. “With this exhibition, we’re seeking to push back against these tropes by examining the Midwest through a historical lens using a variety of materials from the Newberry’s collection.”

Spanning roughly 400 years—from the 17th century to the 21stWhat Is the Midwest? tells a multitude of stories using various Newberry resources, including maps, art, promotional ephemera, archival photos and videos, and personal letters and diaries. 

What Is the Midwest? will run through December 31 and is free and open to all visitors.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • A 1692 French fur trade contract that includes one of the earliest references in writing to Chicago (or “Chicagou”).

  • Protest materials expressing Indigenous peoples’ commitment to environmental activism in the Midwest.

  • John T. McCutcheon’s original drawing for the cartoon “The New Yorker’s Idea of the Map of the United States.” [The cartoon was published in the Chicago Tribune on July 27, 1922.] The cartoon bears a striking similarity to Saul Steinberg’s famous New Yorker cover of 1976.

  • A 1718 map based on French exploration of the western Great Lakes and Mississippi watershed.

  • A promotional video, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in the 1960s, touting the government’s relocation program that encouraged Native Americans to move from reservations to midwestern cities like Chicago.

About the Newberry

Free and open to the public since 1887, the Newberry is an independent research library whose world-famous collection of European and American history is available to scholars, genealogists, and lifelong learners alike. Anyone who is at least 14 years old can sign up for a reader's card and, in just minutes, have history right at their fingertips.

In addition to research, the Newberry provides learning opportunities for the intellectually curious through free exhibitions and public programs that include lectures, panel discussions, and theatrical and dance performances. Learn more at newberry.org.



Alex Teller
Newberry Library

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