Digital Chicago: Unearthing History and Culture
In 2015, Lake Forest College received an $800,000, four-year (2015-2018) grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to involve students and faculty in exploring specific at-risk or forgotten sites in Chicago’s history, through urban archeological digs, innovative digital humanities projects, and complementary coursework in a wide array of disciplines, including English, History, Art, Music, and others.
Digital Chicago unearths the city’s past in order to preserve it for a digital future.
Archaeological Field School
Urban archaeologist and Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Rebecca Graff, the grant’s Chicago Archaeological Fellow, led an Archaeological Field School as part of Lake Forest College’s Access: Summer program in 2015. The dig took place at the Charnley-Persky House in Chicago, in partnership with the Society of Architectural Historians, one of several project partners. The course—SOAN 205: Archaeological Field School—offered a chance for students from Lake Forest College and other area schools to gain firsthand archaeological experience.
The Digital Chicago grant supports the work of several Chicago Fellows faculty every calendar year of the grant (2015-2018). The Chicago Fellows hail from a variety of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. During their tenure as Fellows, they develop course materials and digital products connected to a research project touching on the grant’s Chicago focus. Fellows share their research with the campus community through the Digital Chicago Seminar, participate in public panels and events, contribute to digital production, and connect their work with a broad community of students and Chicago-area residents.
The grant supports the development of an array of Chicago-focused courses, including First-Year Studies (FIYS) courses as well as classes taught by the Chicago Fellows. Fall 2015 FIYS courses related to the grant were taught by Lia Alexopoulos, Ben Zeller, Rachel Ragland, Josh Corey, and Chad McCracken.
Digital Chicago thrives with the help of student researchers in a wide variety of arenas. Students work one-on-one with one of our Chicago Fellows as a Chicago Fellows Research Assistant, create original illustrations and graphic design, excavate historic sites, and peruse historical materials in libraries and archives across Chicago. Each summer, our student researchers gather as a group to share notes and resources, and during the school year as well, many students continue their work with a faculty member or with the grant’s planning team.
In August 2016, Lake Forest College and Digital Chicago partnered with the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University on Windy City in Motion: Movies + Travel in Chicago. This ten-panel exhibit celebrates little-known facts about movies in Chicago, and the starring role played by the city itself.
Digital Chicago on Social Media
The Chicago Mellon Project grant is supported by staff in the Center for Chicago Programs as well as faculty and staff from across the college. Our staff includes Project Director Davis Schneiderman, Chicago Digital Humanities Coordinator Emily Mace, and Administrative Assistant Nina Vallone. Jennie Larsen provides additional support. Anne Thomason, College Archivist and Librarian for Special Collections, is the project’s Digital Archivist.