Spot the Empire Librarian's blog

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Past, Present and Future use of Public Space

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My morning began as other Chicago mornings…. breakie in the Intelligentsia café.  The baristas are getting to know me and my daily order by heart. ( I feel like the Norm character on the 80s TV. program “Cheers”) . On one hand I feel guilt for not trying different places. On the other hand, I feel guilt for trying something different during my short time in the city and having the new choice be a less than satisfactory experience.  Yes, there is comfort in the familiar.  Besides, the coffee is ever so tasty.  Sigh.  Such an emotional struggle going on in my head at too early an hour.

Federal Plaza, Chicago

After breakie, I am trotting over one block to the Federal building.  Much of the plaza is under construction,  and viewing Alexander Calder’s Flamingo  sculpture is hampered by protective plywood and netting.  However, the short building in the plaza  (popularized in various movies, including Ferris Buller’s Day Off),  is a post office.  I am planning to mail out my post cards from this  spot.  Not only is it a famous spot,  though really the only post office I can find.   ( Many office buildings in Chicago have ornate mail collection receptacles in the main lobby, by the elevators, as well.)

I was excited for today’s lessons.  Our NEH/National Louis leaders will be discussing   the past/present and future of public space.   We will be looking at the progress ‘caused’, or perhaps ‘inspired’ , by  the World’s fair in 1933-1934.

Within a span of 40 years, Chicgao hosted two world’s fairs  that celebrated  the European discovery of the Americas and the 100th  birthday of Chicago , respectively.  Both fairs were organized during prosperous times, yet opened during  two of the worst economic depressions which America had every experienced.  It is documented that these fairs  did more than offer an occasion to celebrate;  they employed people during a time when many were struggling with being out of work, also, it provided a brief escape from the hard times of everyday life.  The Century of Progress, in 1933,  symbolized hope for both Chicago and the country.

Me, South Lakefront Park, Museum Campus, Chicago, IL

Importantly,  the fairs serve as examples of hope public places can serve a multitude of purpose: building community, entertainment, sparking the down turned economy, as well as offering a glimpse into a possible dynamic future.

The 1933 Fair lasted two years, to accommodate the mass number of visitors.  Scientists penned the Chicago 1933 ‘s fair  as

Science finds,

Industry applies,

Man conforms.

During the morning lecture,  we examined primate sources: various photos from the actual  1933 fair, postcards and advertising flyers  as well as maps and admission tickets.

Sue the Dinosaur, Field Museum, Chicago, IL

After the planned morning lecture ,  group  spent the afternoon on a  scheduled  trip across the street to the south end of the Lakefront park, were much of the 1933 World’s fair  was constructed ( though was built to be torn down after the fair’s closure).    We walked down to Roosevelt Ave and Michigan Aves  to observe the redevelopment of the park,  the extensive bike trails, the soft ball fields, the sculpture,  the  pathways leading to the Museum Campus.  The group then broke up around 12.30pm near Soldier Field to tour various public spaces, including Field  Museum,  the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium .  I elected to visit the Field Museum and Sue the Dinosaur ( if one ever has the opportunity to visit , I would recommend it highly.)

From there,  I returned back to my dorm room to rest and reflect and have a late/mid afternoon lunch and to compose my thoughts.

Shortly around 7pm, I ventured out again to try to visit theChicago Public Library and  sat down to absorb  the space;  how it was being used, who was using it,  how it was causing others to behave/react. My roomate ,  Rebecca, joined me.  We visited with Jessica, the children’s librarian on duty in the children’s  reading room.  She was speaking so passionately about reading and inspiring children to read that she was an the verge of tearing up.  Which, of course, casued me to get slighty weepy as well, as that is the name of the game for all librarians who work with young people….to inspire our children to be reading. …to inspire and uplift.

Me, Chicago Public Library, 9th Floor Winter Garden, Chicago, IL

Rebecca and I visited all nine floors of the public area of the library, including the magnificent roof top winter garden room.  Again, a public space  used to inspire cultural awareness, civics mindedness,  to uplift the soul and inspire.  Daniel Burnham  approve of this building ‘s attributes which adher to the 1909 plan.

Since it has been a long day out in the sun, I am not only sunburnt,  but rather  a bit tired from all the fresh air. A little snack then bedtime amongst the skyscrapers.  Boy, those were sure tasty cupcakes……


Author: spotwin

While I am a librarian , I am a reading cheerleader. The purpose of this library blog is to better promote reading and information literacy to community. I love books, reading to my son,properly placed apostrophes,canoeing, locating the nearest Starbucks, cheering the Montreal Canadians, and Cherry Garcia ice cream.

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