Secrets…..Murder…&..Mystery at the Chicago History Museum

Ever wonder what the life an artifact had before it reached those glass cases in a museum? Perhaps it inspired an author to quill his award winning novel or an opera singer to hit the highest most unattainable note of her career. For many objects we may never know, but those in the recent exhibition of “the Secret Lives of Objects” currently on display at the Chicago History Museum certainly will. These artifacts are here to live another day and explain in their own voices their extraordinary feats of Chicago history.

Many objects are everyday unsuspecting items we use today; except they were brand new a hundred years ago or created for an entirely different purpose then what their creator had originally intended.

For example:

My friend the white gallon bucket created especially for hauling “stuff” which means the tools of carpenter, the cement for your front walk, the contraption to hold water and soap to wash your car. A “thing” to have many uses, a holder of “stuff.”

1160But your holder has transformed into a musical instrument to be used as a demonstration tool in the Chicago Teacher’s Strike of 2012. A drum that will always march to a different beat that of protest, reconciliation, and respect.

Perhaps a little less Chicago Union and more murder is your taste. Look no further than to your friends in the Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1905. Certainly not a human culprit, but that of an assuming lamp that sparked a fire and some 1153misguided placement of doors that open in and not out. A tragedy that rose to change safety procedures still used today in public building codes. An object may not be able to have remorse, but here if it could it would.

1149Need that glitz and glamour of old Chicago? Perhaps Beatrice Palmer’s necklace would do the trick or even Booth One in the Pump Room at the Ambassador East Hotel wouldn’t you like to know all the tushes that have graced this seat! 1168

Chicago needs her secrets as much as any other city. Last one: was there ever an official clock winder at Marshall Field’s as depicted by Norman Rockwell?


To add to the mystery of the object the company, Manual Cinema produced a film to showcase the objects through shadow puppetry, cinematic motifs, music, and original sounds effects! Watch as Charlie Chaplain’s cane moves to the beat below.



Which object will speak to you?

Visit the exhibit to find out!



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