Pack­ing­town Mu­seum would high­light ‘in­dus­trial roots’ of city’s Union Stock Yard

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY NADER ISSA, DIG­I­TAL CON­TENT PRO­DUCER nissa@sun­times.com | @NaderDIssa

A mu­seum ded­i­cated to telling the his­tory of Chicago’s Union Stock Yard — where mil­lions of live­stock were butchered and sent off to feed the na­tion — could be one step closer to re­al­ity if an on­line fundraiser that ends Satur­day meets its goal.

Or­ga­niz­ers have launched a Kick­starter with hopes of build­ing the Pack­ing­town Mu­seum at The Plant, a for­mer meat­pack­ing fa­cil­ity in Back of the Yards at 1400 W. 46th that now is home to some 20 sus­tain­able food-re­lated busi­nesses.

The stock­yards oc­cu­pied a square mile along South Hal­sted Street for more than a cen­tury, from 1865 to 1971. In 1924, its peak year, more than 18 mil­lion cows, hogs, sheep and horses were shipped to the yard, where they were slaugh­tered and pro­cessed and sent to be used around the coun­try.

The goal of the mu­seum is to high­light the “in­dus­trial roots” and the “cul­tural her­itage” of the stock­yards and nearby neigh­bor­hoods, in­clud­ing Back of the Yards, Ca­naryville, Bridge­port, McKin­ley Park, Bronzeville and En­gle­wood, ac­cord­ing to an in­for­ma­tion page on the Kick­starter.

“We are look­ing to tell the story of the im­por­tance of the stock­yards, as well as la­bor rights,” said Carolee Kokola, di­rec­tor of en­ter­prise oper­a­tions for Bub­bly Dy­nam­ics, which owns and op­er­ates The Plant and will run the mu­seum.

Dis­plays will fea­ture maps, time­lines, mu­rals, im­ages and graph­ics re­count­ing the his­tory. Ex­hibits will ex­plore work­ers rights, the his­tory of or­ga­nized la­bor and “the chang­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween peo­ple, ma­chines and food,” the Plant’s Face­book page says.

The mu­seum also will ex­plain the role of the fac­tory sys­tem in food pro­cess­ing, re­frig­er­a­tion and the growth of meat and dein­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, ac­cord­ing to a fact­sheet about the project.

“The mu­seum will def­i­nitely make peo­ple think about what they eat, where it comes from, how it’s sourced,” Kokola said.

It also will tell the story of im­mi­gra­tion’s role in in­dus­trial la­bor and ex­plain the eth­nic and re­li­gious mix in the neigh­bor­hoods and how that changed over time.

“Ev­ery wave of im­mi­gra­tion came through the stock­yards,” Kokola said.

The mu­seum could open by mid-2019 and will be free to the pub­lic, Kokola said.

Bub­bly Dy­nam­ics has al­ready in­vested $40,000 on im­prov­ing a 1,500-square-foot space — which was once used as a ham freezer — in the build­ing to house the space.

The Kick­starter, which seeks nearly $25,000, ends Satur­day morn­ing. It was about than $1,500 short of its goal late Thurs­day.

Live­stock was kept in pens at Chicago’s Union Stock Yard on the South Side, seen in this 1962 photo from the Sun-Times archives. The yards closed in 1970.


A Soviet group vis­its Chicago’s Union Stock Yard in 1955.

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