Press Release: First-of-its-kind exhibition series highlights Calumet’s natural and cultural treasures

June 4, 2019 Exhibition
A view of Portage Lake in the Calumet region. A set of wooden stairs lead down from the sand dunes onto the lakeshore. Three individuals can be seen standing near the water. The Chicago skyline is visible in the distance.

Encompassing southeast Chicagoland and northwest Indiana, the Calumet region is a place of contradictions—it’s home to marshes and steel mills, forests and factories, conservation and commerce. And yet, despite its importance to American industry and its unique emphasis on nature in urban spaces, no central museum exists to tell the Calumet region’s stories.

Calumet Voices, National Stories, the first-ever exhibition series dedicated to showcasing Calumet’s contributions to nature and culture, aims to fill that gap. Co-curated by the Field Museum and 15 community partners from throughout the Calumet region, this project will consist of four distinct exhibition experiences located in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

“This kind of partnership is a first for the Field Museum,” says Madeleine Tudor, Applied Cultural Research Manager at the Field Museum. “We wanted to showcase local organizations who hold much of the knowledge, artifacts, images, and specimens that deepen understanding of the Field's own collections from the Calumet region. This project is making the Museum's commitment to local communities even more tangible.”

Over the next year and a half, Calumet Voices, National Stories will display at three different sites, each focusing on a different theme. The first, opening at the Pullman National Monument Visitor Information Center/Historic Pullman Foundation this summer, will take a closer look at Calumet’s diverse landscape through the “elements” of water, fire, and earth. The second, hosted by the Gary Public Library, will highlight Calumet’s role in shaping the nation’s economy through epic tales of labor, industry, and entrepreneurship. The third, at Valparaiso University’s Brauer Museum of Art, will take an artistic approach, letting Calumet’s artists and craftspeople share the region’s economic and cultural complexities through their work.

“Visitors will be surprised to find the role this region has played, and continues to play, in the country's development,” says Mark Bouman, Chicago Region Program Director in the Field Museum’s Keller Science Action Center. “The region is America’s crossroads—for nature, for economy, and for people. Each exhibition showcases the national significance of the region's rich natural, cultural, and industrial heritage through the local voices of residents past and present.”

The exhibition series will culminate in a final installment, opening at the Field in 2021, that brings objects, stories, and themes from all three sites together.

Calumet Voices, National Stories not only shines a spotlight on the region’s past and present but considers its future—with its emphasis on nature, industry, and culture, the exhibition series poses serious questions as the Calumet region considers pathways to a sustainable urban future.

“You see crazy contrasts across the Calumet region: Rare orchids bloom by the Indiana toll road. Eagles nest and communities live across the way from an oil refinery. Amid a powerhouse economy, strong voices have fought like hell for nature, for workers, for a place at the table. It doesn’t come together easily here,” Bouman emphasizes. “How it does that—how a region like this wrestles with sustainability—makes the Calumet region a true American treasure.”

All Calumet Voices, National Stories exhibitions are free with general admission at each respective institution, running on the following dates:

  • Kicking off on June 28 and running through November 17, 2019, the first Calumet Voices, National Stories exhibition finds its home at the Visitor Information Center for the Historic Pullman Foundation and National Park Service, 11141 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago, IL 60628.
  • The second exhibition will open in January 2020 at the Gary Public Library and Cultural Center, 220 W 5th Ave., Gary, IN 46402.
  • The third exhibition will open July 2020 at the Brauer Museum of Art, Valparaiso University, 1709 Chapel Dr., Valparaiso, IN 46383.
  • The culminating exhibition will open February 2021 at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605.

The Calumet Voices, National Stories exhibition series is a collaborative effort of the Calumet Curators, a group of the Calumet Heritage Partnership, and the Field Museum. This series showcases the rich cultural, industrial, and natural heritage of the Calumet region. The Calumet Heritage Partnership, the Calumet Collaborative, and the Field Museum lead the effort to designate the Calumet region as a National Heritage Area. Lead Partner in the Calumet Region: ArcelorMittal