McLean County Museum of History

Black History Project Reboots Oral History/Collections Project

This early 1960s clipping from the State Farm ALFI News is among the treasures preserved and digitized by the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project.

This early 1960s clipping from the State Farm ALFI News is among the treasures preserved and digitized by the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project.

Bloomington-Normal Black History Project (BNBHP) 2.0 Saturday presented "Resistance and Progress: 1960 to the Present," a special program to reboot the Black History Project’s oral history and collections efforts. The Bloomington-Normal Black History Project was founded in 1982 and its collections span the 19th and 20th centuries.

The program featured a public reminiscence panel discussion between long-time Bloomington-Normal residents and area youth, as well as a local history performance by students in the community and a dance performance by Breaking Chains and Advancing Increase (BCAI).  "Soul food" fare was provided by Cooking with Love.

The McLean County Museum of History is the repository for the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project, collecting stories and preserving them for future generations. The Bloomington-Normal Black History Project was founded in 1982 and its collections span the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection contains photographs, portraits, booklets, articles, and photocopies related to club organizations and churches of the local black community. In 1989, the Black History Project was affiliated with the McLean County Historical Society, which now serves as a repository for the project's collections. 

To learn more about the BNBHP, visit
http://www.mchistory.org/research/resources/blackhistory/

Museum, ISU Spotlighting Latino Writer, Anthropologist

Illinois State University’s Latin American and Latino Studies Program and the McLean County Museum of History are teaming up to host a community reading group. First up: Dr. Sujey Vega’s book, Latino Heartland: Of Borders and Belonging in the Midwest, in preparation for Vega's visit to Bloomington-Normal.

Vega, an anthropologist at Arizona State University, will speak on the Illinois State campus on Thursday, February 23 at 7:00 p.m., Old Main Room, Bone Student Center. On Saturday, February 25 at 1 p.m., Mclean County Museum of History will hold a community “charla” with the author.

Latino Heartland offers an ethnography of the Latino and non-Latino residents of a small Indiana town, showing how national debate pitted neighbor against neighbor—and the strategies some used to combat such animosity. It conveys the lived impact of divisive political rhetoric on immigration and how race, gender, class, and ethnicity inform community belonging in the twenty-first century.  

Copies of the book can be borrowed from both the Bloomington and Normal public libraries and they are available for purchase at the museum, Babbitt’s Books, or Barnes and Noble. Both speaker programs are free and open to the public thanks to the Sage Foundation Fund at Illinois State.

New Exhibit Studies Origins of McLean County Residents

 McLean County Museum of History is preparing to unveil the first of five new exhibit galleries, ushering in a new era for how we connect visitors and students in particular, to local history

Challenges, Choices, & Change, a core part of the museum’s ongoing $3 million campaign is scheduled to open on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Monday, January 18.

Visitors will be able to explore new inter-actives , local artifacts and imagery, digital technology featuring hands-on learning activities that will answer the questions: Who are the people who have made McLean County their home? Where did they come from and how did they travel to get here? What were their experiences like when they arrived?

From the arrival of native people to the immigration of Asian Indians and Latinos in the late 20th century, the new exhibit looks at the experiences of individuals and families from all over the world who came to make McLean County their home.

The gran opening will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10: 30 a.m., followed by a special presentation on the project. Refreshments will be served after the program.

The new gallery is the culmination of the work of Dr. Gina Hunter, Illinois State University associate professor of Anthropology and Sociology, Museum curator, Susan Hartzold, and staff.

Interfaith Rally to Show Unity, Promote Freedom

Lenore Sobota

The Pantagraph

Amid anti-Islamic rhetoric elsewhere in the country, the anti-discrimination group Not In Our Town hopes to bring people together Wednesday in an interfaith show of solidarity.

The event, at 6 p.m., is planned for the east side of the McLean County Museum of History downtown — the same side where the World War II memorial refers to the “four freedoms” outlined by former President Franklin Roosevelt, including “freedom of worship” and “freedom from fear.”

The Rev. Kelley Becker of First Christian Church, Bloomington, a co-sponsor of the event, said much of the reaction in the wake of attacks in Paris and California is based on fear.

“Fear is so powerful,” Becker said. “We believe love is more powerful than fear.”

The purpose of the event to show “our Islamic brothers and sisters” that “this community is a safe, welcoming place.”

In announcing the event, organizers encouraged people of all faiths or of no particular faith to stand together to show that stereotyping of groups is not acceptable in the Twin Cities.

Other co-sponsors include New Covenant Community, the Presbytery of Great Rivers interfaith group and the Moses Montefiore Temple, in collaboration with the Islamic Center of Bloomington-Normal and Masjid Ibrahim Mosque.

Mike Matejka, a member of Not In Our Town since it began 20 years ago in Bloomington-Normal, said, “Every movement, group, religion has extremists in it. That doesn't mean that every follower of that movement or religion is an extremist.”

He said Wednesday's event is an opportunity to take a stand and let the local Islamic community know “we're not going to fall into the trap of hatefulness.”

In the event of inclement weather, the event will take place at Major Hall, First Christian Church, 401 W. Jefferson St., Bloomington.

But Becker is hopeful the event can stay outside.

“The idea of coming together in full view of the entire community is a good thing,” she said.

In addition to representatives from various faiths saying a few words, those gathered will also light candles, said Becker, adding, "Lighting candles is so much a part of many faith traditions.”

Matejka acknowledged that some people think the efforts of Not In Our Town, such as posting anti-racism signs, are superficial.

But Matejka said, “It's important that publicly we reinforce those stances, that we're a community that works hard not to just tolerate, but to celebrate our diversity.”

Cemetery Walk Features Pioneering Woman in War Effort

After several years working as a live-in maid to the mother of Adlai Stevenson II, Matilda Calcote headed to the West Coast in 1944 to work as a ship welder building destroyers for the U.S. military. A regular "Rosie the Riveter," she remained there for several years, also working as a spot painter and tank cleaner. But Matilda soon returned to Bloomington when the gruesome sight of dead sailors in the bulkhead of ships coming to port became too much to bear. She lived another 40 years and was an active member of the African-American community.

Calcote is one of eight diverse past McLean County personalities featured in dramatic recreations at this year's Evergreen Cemetery Walk in Bloomington, which continues next weekend.

Every year, the Evergreen Cemetery Walk brings the voices of McLean County's history to life. Costumed actors portray individuals representing all walks of life from the county's past on the beautiful grounds of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. This event serves over 3,500 people (mostly students) every year. To date, the walk has featured 157 different individuals from all walks of life, whose stories illustrate the impact the people of McLean County have had on history -- locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Please visit http://www.mchistory.org/learn/programs/cemwalk.php to purchase tickets; for more information on purchasing tickets, please call 309-827-0428309-827-0428. Tickets also are for sale at Casey's Garden Shop, The Garlic Press, and Evergreen Memorial Cemetery.

Matilda Bell Heaston entered the world on November 30, 1910. Born to Jake and Doshie (Robinson) Heaston in Randolph, Tennessee, Matilda was one of 15 children though it is unclear exactly how many brothers and sisters she had. While living in Tennessee, Matilda's parents were sharecroppers. In 1920, at the age of 10, Matilda and her family moved to Luxora, Arkansas, just across the Mississippi River. There, Matilda’s parents were able to farm independently.

Many African-Americans and low-income whites experienced the oppressive sharecropping system of the South. In fact, Mississippi County, Arkansas, where the Heastons farmed, had a very high percentage of tenant farms which was 90.3 percent in 1930. This was the second highest rate among the Arkansas delta counties at that time. Matilda recalled “that real hard way of living, we never had that because we always raised our food....”

The family later moved into a house that they had purchased. Matilda grew up there and would eventually occupy the residence with her first husband and daughter. Her mother took in laundry and did not have a job outside of the home. Her father worked as a blacksmith and shoed horses. Matilda attended an all-African American school in Arkansas. In fact, she never attended an integrated school throughout her education.

In 1926 Matilda married Lucious Walton. On December 2 of that year, she gave birth to a daughter, Ruthie Mae Walton. Two years later, Matilda and Ruthie moved to Bloomington, Illinois where they joined Lillian Augusta (Heaston) and Robert Lee Boykin, Matilda’s older sister and brother-in-law. Matilda’s marriage had hit a rocky patch and she and Lucious had separated. Eighteen-year-old Matilda and her toddler briefly moved in with the Boykins before beginning work for Helen Stevenson. For at least two years, Matilda served as Helen’s personal maid and even lived at the Stevenson home at 1316 East Washington Street. Matilda later worked as a maid for other local families.

Domestic service was typical among African American women in Bloomington-Normal. In fact, 90 percent of African American workers in the nation in 1930 performed agricultural or domestic service jobs. Half of these domestic servants worked in private homes. The other half served as laundresses, waitresses, untrained nurses, and elevator operators among other roles. According to Matilda, jobs and housing were easy for her to find even during the economic challenges of the Great Depression.

Matilda left Illinois several times in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1930, she and her daughter moved to Holland, Missouri with to be with her parents and younger siblings. In the 1930 United States federal census, she was listed as “Matilda Young” though there is no record of another marriage at that time and the name does not appear again in any other sources.

In 1934, she returned home to Arkansas, where she stayed for one year. She distributed agricultural “commodities” in Blytheville as part of a government relief program. In October 1933, just prior to her arrival in Arkansas, President Roosevelt ordered the formation of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation (FSRC), an operation overseen jointly by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). The FSRC worked to reduce agricultural surplus by purchasing excess crops and animal products and distributing them to state relief agencies. Those state agencies—and employees like Matilda—would then provide this food to people in need. Interestingly, Matilda recalled that one of the women in charge “had more in her basement than the people had on the street.”

When asked whether the Great Depression affected her much, Matilda answered, “No, I always had work to do…. I never had anything in my life given to me free.” Over the course of her career, Matilda also served as a “commercial worker” and spent time working in restaurants, which she did not like very much.

By 1940, Matilda was married to William C. Miller. They lived in Bloomington’s Ward 5 (northwestern Bloomington) where they rented a home for $10 per month which is the equivalent of $169.86 in 2015 dollars. William worked as a garage janitor and earned $624 for 52 weeks of labor. Matilda was a housemaid for a private home, collecting $320 for 40 work weeks. Together they brought in $944 which is the equivalent of $16,150.21 in 2015 dollars. To put these amounts in perspective, the median annual income for a man in 1940 was $956; for a woman, it was $592. Assuming Matilda worked at least 40-hour weeks, this meant that she earned 20 cents per hour—much less than the minimum wage at the time which was 30 cents per hour.

Overall, this census data provides a valuable perspective on the African American economic situation. Federal measures to relieve the economic strain caused by the Great Depression failed to reach female African American workers. In particular, the Social Security Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, which introduced the minimum wage, excluded the two sectors in which many African Americans worked; agriculture and domestic service.

Not all federal programs passed over African Americans workers. On June 25, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which attempted to curb the “discrimination of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin….” Although the United States had not yet declared war, American industry was ramping up production to help its ally Great Britain fight the Axis powers. Despite this need, many factories refused to hire African Americans. These discriminatory practices angered Chicagoan Asa Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Backed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Urban League, Randolph pushed for fair hiring practices. He called for 100,000 African Americans to march on Washington to protest discrimination in defense industries. Embarrassed, President Roosevelt issued his Order which also created a Committee on Fair Employment Practice. The committee was charged with investigating employment discrimination cases.

In mid-1943, nearly 65 percent of shipyard workers on the West Coast were women.

In mid-1943, nearly 65 percent of shipyard workers on the West Coast were women.

In her oral history interview, Matilda recalled the growth of black employment in Bloomington-Normal during the early 1940s when African Americans began to be employed at places like American Steel and Williams Oil-O-Matic. In fact, her brother, probably her younger brother William Harrison Heaston, started working at the latter business in 1942. Although it’s unclear what job William specifically performed at the factory, the Williams Oil-O-Matic company fulfilled a variety of military contracts requiring precision machine work. The company manufactured hydraulic control devices (or what were called “oil gears”) for aiming antiaircraft guns, as well as smoke screen generators for the U.S. Navy and parts for the Boeing B-29 Super Fortress bomber.

Matilda soon sought employment in the defense industry herself when she left Bloomington in 1944 and worked in Seattle, Washington, for eight years. She built destroyers for the war effort. Matilda recalled that there was a strong need for these types of ships because 50 or more of them protected larger ships at sea. They were in such high demand that she helped produce a ship every 60 days. She worked several jobs at the shipyard including spot painter, welder, and tank cleaner. In her oral history, she recalled the “depressing” nature of tank cleaning: “So many times when them [sic] ships would limp in from abroad, from the sea, there would be a bunch of sailors when they’d open that bulk head, you know. They’d be in there. It was terrible.” Women at the shipyards received jobs based on their existing skill set. According to Matilda, the employers “didn’t teach you to do it. You had to take a sweeping job if you didn’t already have a skill. But if you already knew how to do those things, they’d give you a trial and see if you could do it. And then they’d let you have it.” Fortunately, Matilda had welding skills and got the job.

The start of World War II dramatically changed the relationship between women in general and the American workforce. It also provided inroads for African American and other minorities into the workforce. Due to a labor shortage caused primarily by white men leaving the workforce for military service, these new workers took over various roles that had historically been unavailable to them. These roles included skilled and semiskilled factory operations such as work in munitions, food, and textiles factories. In total, the number of African Americans who worked in civilian jobs increased by approximately one million between 1940 and 1944. Sixty percent of those workers were women. Throughout the United States, African American women saw a 40 percent rise in employment during this time period. For example, in 1942 the Brooklyn Navy Yard hired women mechanics for the first time in 141 years and nearly ten percent of the first 125 women hired there were African American. At the same time in Detroit, Michigan, fewer than 30 black women were employed in war plants; by November 1943, over 14,000 worked in that occupation.

It is unclear when Matilda and William Miller divorced but on November 8, 1947 she married L.C. Riley in Seattle. By 1952, the new couple had moved to Bloomington and were living with Matilda’s mother at 1322 N. Ewing Street (her father had passed away in 1951). Between 1953 and 1957, L.C. worked at the whites-only Louis E. Davis American Legion Post No. 56 as a bus boy and later a custodian. Two years later, he earned a living as a laborer for Behrenz Asphalt in Bloomington. By 1957, Matilda and L.C. were residing at 1204 W. Street. They divorced sometime before 1959 when he had married Mary Burnett.

Matilda returned to the West Coast. On May 13, 1960 she married William Calcote in Seattle, Washington where they were both living. William was 23 years her junior. By the next year, they were back in Bloomington living at 1322 N. Ewing with Matilda’s mother, though the city directories show Matilda at 1204 W. Mulberry Street. From 1964 to 1971 the Calcotes lived at the N. Ewing address. During that time—five days a week from 1961 to 1976—Matilda (or “Tillie” as she was known to some) worked as a maid at the Bloomington home of Betty Zimmer. In 1972, Matilda and William resided at 703 W. Monroe Street where they remained for the rest of their married lives.

Through the years William had found better and more secure employment. He worked as a custodian at the Eureka Williams plant from 1963 until 1967, when he took over as a maintenance worker at the Holiday Inn. In 1971 he returned Eureka and worked there for two more years. In 1974 William began custodial and maintenance duties at Bloomington Junior High School until 1979. After that he served as a maintenance man for the local Board of Education. William was a custodian at Raymond School at the time of his death in 1980. Matilda was retired at that time and did not return to work.

The Calcotes were members of Union Baptist Church located at 514 W. Jackson Street. In fact, after arriving in Bloomington in 1928, Matilda joined this church and worshipped there whenever she lived in town. She also actively participated in the church’s Willing Workers Club and Progressive Women’s Club. These social clubs performed projects to better the members and the community as a whole. In 1953, she led the women of the church in directing three services for “Women’s Day.” Sixteen years later, she was co-chair of that same event where local African American community leader Caribel Washington spoke. Around 1975, Matilda joined the Three C Club which brought women together to discuss issues that regularly affected African Americans. The next year she took over as chaplain of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Redd-Williams Post No. 163 of the American Legion, an all-African American post. Her brother was a World War II veteran which is how she qualified for membership.

William Calcote was only 47 years old when he passed away on September 28, 1980. He and Matilda had been happily married for 20 years. Matilda thought that her previous marriages were inconsequential by comparison. She said they were the result of being “young and not knowing what was going on and just married.” Family members laid William to rest at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery on October 2, 1980.

Matilda’s pride in her grandchildren could not be hidden. She spoke highly of her granddaughter who worked as a nurse, and her great-grandsons, who were medical students in neurosurgery and psychiatry. She credits the lack of role models as to why her great-grandsons left Bloomington. In her own words, “There was nobody doing anything. Nobody to look up to... There wasn’t no men doing nothing, but, you know, ‘shacking up’ and stuff.” By all accounts Matilda was a strong, hard-working, and adaptable human being. Through multiple jobs and marriages, she maintained her independence.

Matilda passed away at the age of 80 on December 27, 1990, having been ill for several months. Her funeral service was held at Union Baptist Church on New Year’s Eve. She was laid to rest next to William at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery.

Greening Of The Prairie Illustrates Ugliness of Anti-Immigrant Prejudice

It was a contentious time and a contentious issue. A nation of immigrants wary of a new group of foreign refugees, workers, and families flowing into their communities. Doors barred to these newcomers, ugly propaganda painting these new arrivals as criminals, ne'er-do-wells, and even as subhumans. People indentured into a virtual servitude, and occasional acts of violence and terror committed in the name of fear and hatred.

The King of A-Shantee, a cartoon from an 1885 edition of the then-popular magazine Puck's,  illustrates the bigotry of the time toward the Irish. The cartoon is one of several pieces of anti-Irish propaganda and prejudice on display at the McLean County Museum of History.

The King of A-Shantee, a cartoon from an 1885 edition of the then-popular magazine Puck's,  illustrates the bigotry of the time toward the Irish. The cartoon is one of several pieces of anti-Irish propaganda and prejudice on display at the McLean County Museum of History.

Rough times for the Irish families that settled in Central Illinois in the 19th Century -- they experienced bigotry, discrimination, and suspicion that resonates in today's contentious immigration debate. The McLean County Museum of History's Greening of the Prairie exhibit, on display in downtown Bloomington through January 16, explores how one group, now prominent in Twin Cities business, politics, and community life, faced and eventually overcame deep-seated public prejudice.

The exhibit features historic objects, photographs, and maps about Irish-Catholic famine immigrants who came to this area in the early 1850s to escape the Irish famine brought on by widescale potato blight . They worked to build the railroad and opened early black-dirt prairie farms, following on the heels of Protestant Scots-Irish pioneers.

This exhibit examines why they left Ireland, the challenges they faced once they arrived, their successes and failures, and the impact their presence has had on our community. The Irish-Catholic immigrants faced major local hostility -- the anti-Catholic American Protective Association and the Ku Klux Klan were active in the region; KKK members reportedly included a number of local professionals and leaders.

Museum Curator Susan Hartzold muses grimly about the sweeping bigotry of the time -- an anti-immigrant sentiment "that's still going on" as Americans debate over Mexican labor and Syrian refugees.

"There are things we're not proud about in our history, but we don't want to sweep them under the rug," Hartzold acknowledges. "We had lots of anti-Irish, anti-Catholic sentiment in this town. It's important that people become aware of those things so they don't let them happen again."

However, the Irish overcame bigotry and were embraced by a growing number of residents. Irish farms became common in the Merna and south Downs area.

The exhibit highlights many notable McLean County Irish families, including: the Costigans who were grocers, lawyers and a judge; the Irvins, who started the Bloomington Pepsi bottling company; and the Quinns, who launched a gas station that still exists today. The Boylans became renowned for their candies and soft drinks. And by 1913, local clothing store Costello and O'Malley's sponsored a baseball team in the popular Catholic Forester's League.


Take Back the Night Caps Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Join YWCA McLean County's Stepping Stones in raising awareness and demanding an end to sexual violence.

Take Back the Night is a powerful way to show that all people should feel safe when walking alone at night.

The nighttime walk -- designed to emphasize the need for safety and security on Twin Cities streets -- is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 28 beginning at McLean County Museum of History at 200 North Main in Bloomington.

 

 







Meanwhile, here are some stats on sexual assault and violence to consider.


McLean County Hosts Sexual Assault Awareness Month Events

The month's local observances began last Thursday with a Teal Ribbon Ceremony at Heartland Community College. Community members were invited to tie ribbons around the campus or paint a single fingernail teal to symbolize support for sexual assault survivors.

The Clothesline Project will be 5 to 7 p.m. April 8 at YWCA, 1201 N. Hershey Road. Assault survivors are invited to create shirts to be displayed on a clothesline; supplies will be provided. Shirts will be on display throughout April at Behind The Glass Fine Art Gallery and Studio, 315 N. Main St., Bloomington; Wednesday through April 9 at Heartland Community College; and April 10 at YWCA.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 18 at the McLean County Museum of History, 200 N. Main St. Goal of the event — featuring keynote speaker Steve Thompson, an expert on sexual assault and stalking — is to raise awareness about sexual violence and improve gender relationships and appreciation for women's experiences. Registration is $25 — $10 for students and seniors — and may be completed at www.ywcamclean.org.

Brave Miss World, a movie about rape and followed by a panel discussion, will be 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 21 at Illinois State University's Center for Visual Arts, Normal. The event is hosted by ISU's Graduate Organization of the School Psychology program.

Take Back the Night will be 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 28 at McLean County Museum of History. The event will include speakers, a rally, a 1½-mile walk through downtown Bloomington and a candlelight vigil.

YWCA Stepping Stones Focusing on Sexual Assault Awareness

YWCA McLean County's Stepping Stones program — which provides help for sexual assault and abuse survivors and their families — will sponsor several programs during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

A Teal Ribbon Ceremony will be 2 p.m. Thursday at Heartland Community College, 1500 W. Raab Road, Normal. Community members are invited to tie ribbons around campus to symbolize support for sexual assault survivors and to bring awareness.

The Clothesline Project will be 5 to 7 p.m. April 8 at YWCA, 1201 N. Hershey Road. Assault survivors are invited to create shirts to be displayed on a clothesline; supplies will be provided. Shirts will be on display throughout April at Behind The Glass Fine Art Gallery and Studio, 315 N. Main St., Bloomington; Wednesday through April 9 at Heartland Community College; and April 10 at YWCA.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 18 at McLean County Museum of History, 200 N. Main St. Goal of the event — featuring keynote speaker Steve Thompson, an expert on sexual assault and stalking — is to raise awareness about sexual violence and improve gender relationships and appreciation for women's experiences. Registration is $25 — $10 for students and seniors — and may be completed at www.ywcamclean.org.

Brave Miss World, a movie about rape and followed by a panel discussion, will be 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 21 at Illinois State University's Center for Visual Arts, Normal. The event is hosted by ISU's Graduate Organization of the School Psychology program.

Take Back the Night will be 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 28 at McLean County Museum of History. The event will include speakers, a rally, a 1½-mile walk through downtown Bloomington and a candlelight vigil.

Listen below for an in-depth discussion of Stepping Stones' objectives and efforts to empower victims of assault:


The Segregationist Secrets of McLean County

Scenes like this put a public face to segregation in McLean County during the mid-20th Century. Photo from McLean County Museum of History.

Dr. Mark Wyman, ISU emeritus history professor, will present “Segregation – Our Community’s Secret,” 1:30 p.m. April 11 at the McLean County Museum of History.

Admission is free for the presentation, which will focus on the now largely forgotten history of segregation in the Twin Cities. According to Wyman, a local African American leader once commented to him that “people don’t know how bad it was here – even black kids don’t know how bad it was.”

He cited local traditions that barred African-Americans from many aspects of life in Bloomington-Normal, now largely unknown by all but the victims of that racial exclusion. Wyman decided to investigate that era for himself, scouring local newspapers for details.

Wyman taught at ISU from 1971 until his retirement in 2004. A former newspaperman, his historical publications have covered topics including Western hard-rock miners, immigrants returning to Europe, and hobos harvesting crops across the West.

For more information about Wyman’s program, please contact the museum’s education department by calling 309-827-0428 or emailing education@mchistory.org.

Lunch and Learn: NIOT at the Museum

Twin Citians interested in cultural nourishment are invited to "Lunch and Learn" Jan. 8 at the McLean County Museum of History, in downtown Bloomington.

Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal is featured in the new year's first Lunch and Learn program, at 12:10 p.m. in the Museum’s historic Governor Fifer Courtroom on the museum's second floor. Visitors may bring a brown bag lunch and participate in a special presentation and group discussion led by NIOT organizers Willie Halbert and Camille Taylor. NIOT anti-bigotry/anti-bullying pledge cards will be available at the event.

The monthly Lunch and Learn series is sponsored by the Collaborative Solutions Institute of Illinois Wesleyan University and the Museum of History. Sessions are free and open to the public.

Bloomington-Normal's NIOT activities started in 1995 with the original screening of the documentary Not In Our Town on PBS and a series of community forums on local discrimination issues. Over the following 18 years, NIOT has been involved in further marches, diversity celebrations, community forums, and outreach to area schools. 

NIOT:BN recently "relaunched" with a new grassroots emphasis and an expanded focus on community inclusivity. Watch the video at left recapping NIOT:BN's pioneering initial campaign.

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Living history: Enlight at the Museum

The McLean County Museum of History, on Bloomington's old courthouse square, has become far more than a repository for Central Illinois' relics and stories -- it is today a gateway to understanding and appreciating the contributions of the diverse cultures that enliven the Twin Cities.

For example, ¡Fiesta! A Celebration of Mexican Popular Art, open through Jan. 16,  features more than 150 pieces of art made by the people of Mexico, including ceramics, textiles, papier maché, lacquerware, basketry, carved wood, leather, glass, and more from every region of the country. Visitors to the exhibit are invited to travel through time to learn about the history of Mexico's folk arts and how, as these arts became popular in the U.S., they were incorporated into the decorative arts north of the Mexican border.  

In the exhibit, visitors can stop at the museum's time travel agency where they will learn about travel to Mexico in the 1930s.

In another gallery, you'll find The Greening of the Prairie: Irish Immigration and Settlement in McLean County (open through Jan. 16, 2016), which outlines early cultural contributions to the region. The exhibit examines why emigrants left Ireland, the challenges they faced once they arrived, their successes and failures, and the impact their presence has had on our community. The exhibit features historic objects, photographs, and maps detailing the saga of Irish-Catholic famine immigrants who came to this area in the early 1850s as industrial and farming pioneers.

And The Asian Indian Experience in McLean County illuminates another key influence on Twin Cities culture and everyday life. Asian Indian immigrants began arriving in McLean County in the 1960s, seeking jobs and a better life. This installation in the People gallery of the permanent exhibit Encounter on the Prairie explores the challenges they faced and reveals the efforts made to maintain important traditions and practices while, at the same time, embracing American culture. The installation's open through May 1.

Visit www.mchistory.org to explore educational and entertainment opportunities at the Museum.