Calumet Voices, National Stories exhibit features IU Northwest art and archives
The Chicago Field Museum’s latest exhibit installation, Calumet Voices, National Stories: A Journey through the Calumet Region celebrates narratives from Northwest Indiana through art and artifacts, including several items from the Indiana University Northwest Calumet Regional Archives.
Assistant librarian, archivist and curator Jeremy Pekarek, who is new to his role at the Calumet Regional Archives, played a role in researching items currently on loan to the exhibit. In fact, he credits the Field Museum for inspiring his love of history.
“When I was a kid and we lived in Chicago, my mom used to take us to the Field Museum all the time. In fact, I would credit those experiences for my early appreciation for history," Pekarek says. “So, today, acting as a steward of IU Northwest’s archive, it is very humbling to be part of something this important.”
Specific items on loan to the Field Museum for the Calumet Voices, National Stories exhibit include:
- A Life magazine dated August 9, 1943. On the magazine cover is an image of a female steel worker during World War II. Women were vital in Gary’s steel plants during this era as they filled in for men who were fighting on the frontlines.
- A photograph of a Gary-based doo-wop artist The Spaniels, who were best known for the single “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight.”
- A photograph of the Gary Land Company housing building for steel workers and managers during the early 20th century.
- Two photographs of the William Wirt Middle School. William Wirt was an educator who became superintendent in 1907. During his tenure, he created the Gary Plan, which was known as the work-study-play plan.
“When you walk through the exhibit, you are instantly met with diverse experiences; ultimately telling an interesting story between nature and industry. An intriguing example of this includes a large photograph showing a surfer riding the waves on the shores of Lake Michigan and in the backdrop is the steel industry,” Pekarek commented.
The Field Museum’s exhibit also features a woodcut book created by artist Corey Hagelberg, an adjunct faculty member at the School of the Arts. Titled This is not a Peace Pipe, the 10-foot-long print opens like an accordion and shares the story of the Calumet River.
The river—allegedly named after a peace pipe that Father Marquette smoked with Indigenous people—originates in the pristine dunes on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Less than a mile from where it begins, the river turns black before disappearing into a pipe, or culvert, which goes into the ground almost like it’s swallowing the river.
“The woodcut book speaks to the irony of the river that was named after a peace pipe becomes a pipe that goes into the ground at U.S. Steel,” Hagelberg says. “The book begins in one place and time and finishes in another.”
Pekarek praised the groundwork laid by his predecessor, Stephen McShane, Emeritus Librarian. McShane played a vital role in curating the collection currently on loan.
The Calumet Regional Archives—located in the John W. Anderson Library on the IU Northwest campus—collect, preserve and make available records from organizations and individuals to document the history of Northwest Indiana so you, too, can take a walk back through time.
Learn more about the Calumet Regional Archives at IU Northwest