Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

My own joke repertoire is pretty slim, but I did just hear about a really interesting collaboration between the Chicago History Museum and the improv comedy group The Second City. They are teaming up to create a new show about the history of Chicago. The Chicago History Museum is providing guidance and historical materials while Second City develops the show, and last month CHM hosted eight preview performances where the audience was invited to provide live feedback on the work in progress. Second City is scheduled to debut the completed show in December. A recent writeup on redeye gives this description of the preview:

Though in this construction phase the performances are different each night, but if a recent show was any indication, the comics don’t plan to hold back on much. Chicago Public Schools, aldermanic elections, Chicago police, Chicago politics, Wrigleyville, trolley tours, Schaumburg, and the bean (“It looks like a lady’s pleasure button”) all fall under the satirical scrutiny of the show….If this performance was any indication, the show will blend those kind of catnip-for-the-audience jokes with more esoteric references to Chicago’s long history.

There are two things I like about this project. First, it looks at history in a different way, always a positive in my book. Second, it makes sense from a collaboration standpoint. The Second City is a venerable Chicago institution in its own right, but it is not the traditional kind of partner for a city museum. Therefore Second City brings a lot to the table: fresh ideas, and a new audience. So look around your city: what are the beloved institutions, no matter the field, that might make interesting partners? And let me take that one step further: maybe city museums should establish residency programs, inviting specialists from a variety of different fields to spend a few months to a year creating collaborative work. I would like to see the results of such cross-pollination, comedic or otherwise. In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out for reviews of the new Second City show at the end of the year.

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Forgive the recent silence; I have been preoccupied by a tough deadline. I was asked to write about my city museum research for a collection of essays on cities and memory, to be published (in Finnish) by the Finnish Literature Society. Now that I have sent my draft off to the editor, I can turn my attention back to you, dear reader.

One of the topics I discuss in my essay is historically-themed public art. I think it can be a particularly interesting way to interpret city history, and at the same time build meaningful urban spaces. Here are a few examples of particularly successful pieces:

First, there’s the sculpture pictured above, at the beginning of the post. It’s Balancing Act by Stephan Balkenhol, on Axel-Springer-Strasse in Berlin. It poignantly marks the borderland of the Berlin Wall with a larger-than-life figure of a man, perched on a section of the Wall as if it were a tightrope. The effect is iconographic: anyone who knows even a little bit about the history of Berlin immediately gets the message with no need for complicated interpretation. (more…)

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Here’s something I’ve been seeing a lot of in city museums: street signs in the lobby.

I took this photo at the Museum of London in February:


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