Packingtown Museum at The Plant -- coming soon!

Mission. The mission of the Packingtown Museum is to preserve, interpret, and present the industrial history and cultural heritage of Chicago’s Union Stock Yard and surrounding neighborhoods.

Vision. Housed in The Plant, the former Peer Foods packinghouse turned collaborative food business community and circular economy demonstration, the Packingtown Museum offers a unique opportunity to connect Chicago’s industrial past to its future and inform contemporary conversations about labor, immigration, food production, community development, and the economy. Through permanent and temporary exhibits and educational programs in a partially renovated space that retains elements of the original ham freezer, dating to 1925, the Packingtown Museum aims to make the social, cultural, political, and industrial history of region maximally accessible and relevant to visitors.

The future Packingtown Museum space was open at The Plant during Open House Chicago 2017. It included a preview of the museum themes and featured a map of the Union Stock Yard and Packingtown Railroad Connections dated May 1, 1891, on loan from the Dominic A. Pacyga Collection.

The future Packingtown Museum space was open at The Plant during Open House Chicago 2017. It included a preview of the museum themes and featured a map of the Union Stock Yard and Packingtown Railroad Connections dated May 1, 1891, on loan from the Dominic A. Pacyga Collection.

The Packingtown Museum’s curatorial vision includes 6 key themes:

·      Development of the Union Stock Yard (1865 – contemporary Stockyard Industrial District) and Central Manufacturing District

·      Industrial and economic history and the food system: role of the factory system, refrigeration and the growth of meat industry, deindustrialization, the circular economy

·      Neighborhood identities and evolution: Back of the Yards, Bridgeport, Canaryville/Between The Tracks, McKinley Park, Englewood, Bronzeville

·      Immigration and Diversity: the role of immigration in fueling industrial labor, ethnic and religious mix in the neighborhoods and their evolution over time

·      Labor history: key strikes and organizations, role of Chicago’s unions in broader labor movement

·      History of the building: from Peer Foods packinghouse to The Plant

The collection will include a mix of historical artifacts, maps and photographs, and interactive (audio/visual) displays, and there will be opportunities for visitors to engage with and contribute to the ongoing collection of information about the area.

Rationale.  The South Side of Chicago’s role in the development of industrialization – of food, in particular – is locally relevant and globally significant.  The story of the development of the Union Stock Yard, the people who worked in them, and the neighborhoods that grew up around it includes chapters on organized labor, the role of immigration in fueling the growth of city and economy, and the changing relationship between people, machines, and food. All of these historical themes are relevant to the political and social dynamics of Chicago and the United States today. Through a better understanding of and appreciation for this 150-year history, we can be more engaged and thoughtful participants in the present and future that is unfolding right in front of us at The Plant. 

Planning Committee. Initial planning for the Packingtown Museum is being spearheaded by a volunteer organizing committee, as follows:

-      John Edel, founder of Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, The Plant, and Plant Chicago, NFP

-      Ivan Guzman, intern with Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, and master’s student in Museum and Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago

-      Alaina Harkness, research fellow with the Brookings Institution

-      Jacob Kaplan, co-founder and editor of Forgotten Chicago

-      Carolee Kokola, director of operations for Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, with experience in historic preservation

-      Mayra Lopez-Zuniga, district director for Office of State Representative Theresa Mah and long-time Back of the Yards resident

-      Dominic Pacyga, professor of history at Columbia College (retired) and author of the books Slaughterhouse, Chicago: A Biography, and several other books concerning local history

-      Jackie Wiese, auxiliary board president of Plant Chicago, NFP, with experience in historic preservation

Contact. For questions or to provide input, please contact info (at) bubblydynamics.com