News and Events

Students’ archaeological findings showcased in new exhibit at IIT

Students standing behind artifact display
May 10, 2024
Linda Blaser

In a captivating convergence, the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) has unveiled an exhibit showcasing historic artifacts unearthed by visiting Lake Forest College students and others who participated in an onsite urban dig there last May.

The new exhibit, “Education and Architecture: Unveiling the Archaeological Remains of Armour Flats and Armour Mission,” was created by Ian Cox ’24, Riley Groark ’24, Sofia Santana ’25, Theresa Wilhite ’25, and Emma Zagaiski’s ’24.

It has been integrated into a larger exhibit, “A Living Room for Bronzeville: Stories about the Illinois Institute of Technology and Chicago’s South Side,” which is related to the forthcoming book, Mies & More: Transforming IIT’s Campus, Bronzeville, and Chicago’s South Side by co-editors Kevin Harrington and Michelangelo Sabatino.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Graff contributed the chapter “Just Beneath the Surface: The Archaeology of Armour Flats, Mecca Flats, and the IIT Campus.” The book will be printed by University of Minnesota Press. 

“This exhibit marks a high point in a six-year relationship that I and Lake Forest College undergraduate archaeology students have had with IIT and its School of Architecture, beginning in 2018 with the rediscovery of the Mecca Flats,” Graff said.

“Our students put it together themselves, based upon their original research. The book that this larger exhibit celebrates is the first I am aware of that incorporates our archaeological considerations of Mies van der Rohe’s modernist project, and is itself an extension of these interdisciplinary and interinstitutional relationships.”

2 students at urban dig screenStudents gained invaluable hands-on experience last May while unearthing remains of important historical structures that lie beneath the IIT campus.

Fourteen students spent the summer May term in Graff’s SOAN 205: Archaeology Field School conducting an urban dig to search for artifacts from the once-vibrant Armour Mission and 194-apartment Armour Flats, built by the Armour Meatpacking Company in the early 1880s for its workers. The project to unearth the remains garnered much interest as the IIT campus and surrounding areas were designated the Bronzeville–Black Metropolis National Heritage Area of Chicago in 2022.

After just a few weeks digging at four carefully selected spots in the open green field at the southwest corner of Dearborn and 33rd Street in Chicago, Graff’s students uncovered original building foundations, red bricks, nails, doll parts, and other artifacts—all that remains of what was once a busy and thriving neighborhood a century ago. Several Chicago media outlets covered the students’ dig.

Related Links