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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Des Plaines: The Project

In case it wasn't clear from my last post, I'm a transplant to the Chicago area. Before I moved here, I read a fascinating book called Nature's Metropolis by the historian William Cronin. In this book, Cronin describes the extensive economic, cultural, and social network that grew out of Chicago during the 19th and 20th century.  Key industries like timber, meat packing, and manufacturing connected the city to places near and far in the Midwest and beyond. Railroads, of course, were the ties that bound the system together.

Russell Lee, Chicago Skyline and the 14th Street Passenger Yards, May, 1948. The Newberry Library
Because of this book, I have always thought of the city—and the areas around it—as a vast organism, a nervous system—wonderful because of its complexity. Now that I'm working in Des Plaines, I find myself learning about a whole new area of this intricate system and full of questions about its origins, the people who live and work here, and its future.

Because I have so many questions, I plan to do the only sensible thing that a librarian can do: start a research project! Only this research project won't involve books and magazines (well, maybe a few), it will involve talking to people in the community and reporting back here what I find out.

So, to get the ball rolling, tell me in the comments what I need to learn about Des Plaines. Who should I talk to? What questions should I ask? In the coming months, I will try to incorporate your responses into my features.


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