About the 2018 Summer Institute

The City as Archive: Chicago in the American Century

Chicago’s vast research archives hold primary source materials that are as detailed, diverse, challenging and extraordinary as the city itself. Since the city’s founding in 1833, waves of pioneering Chicagoans have left records of their lives and experiences in this city in countless forms, including manuscripts, letters, diaries, maps, artifacts, newspapers, sound recordings, photographs, oral histories and artworks. Today these materials, which provide the truest records of Chicago’s past, are housed throughout the city in a range of places—at the Newberry Library, the Chicago History Museum, the Studs Terkel Oral History Collection, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Pritzker Military Library and the University of Chicago’s Special Collections Research Center. The great bulk of these collections remain unexamined by scholars.

The 2018 Summer Research Institute offers undergraduates an opportunity to explore Chicago’s archival treasures. The Institute aims to introduce students from all branches of the humanities and humanistic social sciences to the practice and craft of working closely with primary sources. Individual students, depending on their interests, will be trained to use methods drawn from history, literature, film, art history, philosophy, music, linguistics, anthropology, political science, sociology or psychology to direct their investigations. They will partner with Institute faculty mentors on collaborative research work, or pursue independent inquiries relevant to the Summer Institute theme under the guidance of their faculty. Students’ discoveries in the city’s archives may fuel their writing in genres ranging from traditional scholarly monographs to literary nonfiction, from philosophical essays to poetry and screenwriting. Their original research may enrich major creative projects at Court Theatre and the Smart Museum, as well as furnish significant groundwork for individual BA projects.

Objectives and Learning Outcomes: Students will learn how to conduct original research on a wide array of primary, secondary and reference materials, using tools humanists employ across disciplines. They will acquire expertise in navigating collections and assessing sources to build scholarly arguments and other persuasive works of disciplined imagination evidence provided by archival materials. They will hone the skills required to act as contributing partners in collaborative research enterprises, and as independent investigators pursuing original projects.  Finally, learning to directly access the holdings of museums, archives and the like will introduce students to the professional practices and networks of cultural institutions that form an important part of Chicagoland society and economy.

At the conclusion of the 2018 Summer Institute, students will have completed a substantive project that showcases their engagement with primary materials, and their critical thinking and writing around the theme of the Institute. A closing symposium and exhibition will afford students the opportunity to present their work publically.

2018 Summer Research Institute Collaborative Projects

Court Theatre’s The Adventures of Augie March

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn, AB ‘91, has adapted Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March for Court Theatre. In preparation for this play’s 2019 world premiere, Court’s artistic team will be utilizing resources at the Studs Terkel Center for Oral History and the Chicago History Museum to provide historical context for the production. Much of the action of The Adventures of Augie March takes place in Chicago’s West Side and South Side Jewish communities during the 1920s and 1930s. To bring these neighborhoods, populations and time periods to life, student researchers contributing to Augie will focus on manuscripts in the Saul Bellow Papers at Regenstein Library, audio recordings of Depression-era Chicagoans at the Studs Terkel Center, and photographic and newspaper collections at the Chicago History Museum. Artists collaborating on this project include the dramaturg and dialect coach; set, costume and sound designers; the acting company, the director and the playwright.

Smart Museum’s @1948 Exhibit

Professors Sparrow and Nelson are organizing an exhibit at the Smart Museum on the themes of their Sawyer Seminar @1948 for the fall of 2018. One premise of the seminar was that few moments in world history have such far-reaching impact, temporally and geographically, in terms of intellectual development and lived experience. Chicago’s place in this tumultuous post-war moment will be the focus of the exhibit. Students in the seminar will be able to assist in the selection of materials from the Smart’s holdings, research the artists and forms that are selected, and produce written documentation for the exhibit and their own presentations and BA projects.