The Chicago History Museum explores the city's deep connection to the Polish community in an expansive new exhibit.
Shoppers on north Milwaukee Avenue in Avondale and Concordia Lutheran Church at 2600 W. Belmont Ave., on view in Back Home
In 2017, the Chicago History Museum submitted a grant application for a youth exchange program with the Polish History Museum in Warsaw—but it failed. One year later, with a revamped application, it was approved, and four Chicago-area students traveled to Warsaw to explore oral histories of the Polish diaspora, before the Warsaw students came here. From this experience, the Chicago History Museum’s exhibition Back Home: Polish Chicago was born. The exhibit, which will travel to the Warsaw museum next year, surveys a 150-year history of the city’s Polish communities through firsthand narratives, music, art installations by five local Polish creatives (including multidisciplinary artist Andrea Jablonski and pen-and-ink artist Irena Siwek) and more. “The Chicago History Museum continually strives to connect with all of Chicagoland’s communities,” says curator Peter Alter. “When borrowing artifacts for display, we worked very closely with the lenders to make sure their stories and those of their ancestors are accurately and respectfully represented.” More than 90 items tell the stories of immigrants’ journeys to the Windy City, how they established roots, and the duality of being connected to two places at once. “We hope visitors will see Polish Chicago history as dynamic and ongoing, and find stories that resonate with them.” Opens May 20, 1601 N. Clark St.