Vision and Mission
The Packingtown Museum is dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and presenting the industrial history and cultural heritage of Chicago’s Union Stock Yard and surrounding neighborhoods. Through a combination of exhibits and educational programming, the museum strives to connect Chicago's industrial past to its future and inform contemporary conversations about labor, immigration, food production, community development, and the economy.
About The Plant
The Packingtown Museum is housed at The Plant, a former meatpacking facility that is being repurposed as a collaborative community of food businesses committed to material re-use and closed-loop systems. The Plant is owned and operated by Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, which directs the design and build-out of tenant spaces, common areas, and major projects to increase efficiencies of the building and site.
Established in 2002, Bubbly Dynamics is a social enterprise whose mission is to create replicable models for ecologically responsible and sustainable urban industrial development. Bubbly Dynamics’ first building, the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, was renovated based on these principles and has been home to tenants involved in a variety of light-industrial uses. Bubbly’s second project, The Plant, takes the concept further and is working to demonstrate the benefits of closing loops of waste, resources, and energy for food-producing businesses.
Background + Rationale
The very first draft of The Plant's floor plans included a space reserved for the Packingtown Museum. John Edel, founder of Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, recognized the need to tell the story of the South Side of Chicago’s role in the development of industrialization – of food, in particular – which is locally relevant and globally significant.
The story of the development of the Union Stock Yard, the people who worked in them, and the neighborhoods that grew up around it includes chapters on organized labor, the role of immigration in fueling the growth of city and economy, and the changing relationship between people, machines, and food. All of these historical themes are relevant to the political and social dynamics of Chicago and the United States today. Through a better understanding of and appreciation for this 150-year history, we can be more engaged and thoughtful participants in the present and future that is unfolding right in front of us at The Plant.
We are fortunate to have recruited a knowledgeable and talented volunteer committee to guide the initial planning for the Packingtown Museum. Integral to the development of the exhibits is Dominic Pacyga, professor of history at Columbia College (retired) and author of the books Slaughterhouse, Chicago: A Biography, and several other books concerning local history. As the museum's curator, Dominic has been an incredible resource for this effort, and his involvement brings strong credibility to the museum.
Initial planning for the Packingtown Museum is being spearheaded by a volunteer organizing committee, as follows:
- John Edel, founder of Bubbly Dynamics, LLC and The Plant
- Ivan Guzman, intern with Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, and master’s student in Museum and Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago
- Alaina Harkness, Chicago Council on Global Affairs / RW Ventures
- Jacob Kaplan, co-founder and editor of Forgotten Chicago
- Carolee Kokola, director of operations for Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, with experience in historic preservation
- Mayra Lopez-Zuniga, district director for Office of State Representative Theresa Mah and long-time Back of the Yards resident
- Dominic Pacyga, professor of history at Columbia College (retired)
- Erica Ruggiero, architectural historian
- Jackie Wiese, auxiliary board president of Plant Chicago, NFP (the educational 501c3 based at The Plant), with experience in historic preservation
Status of the Museum Space
Bubbly Dynamics renovated the Packingtown Museum space itself, preserving the original meat rail system that was used to convey "trees" of hams and other meat products through the building and relocating smokehouse doors from elsewhere in the building at the museum entrance and at the adjacent restrooms. The museum space measures 1500 square feet and includes space for exhibits to be displayed on adjacent hallways.
Over the last year, led by the volunteer efforts of its Planning Committee, the Packingtown Museum developed draft content for an initial set of exhibits. Temporary mock-ups of images and text currently provide a storyboard on the museum walls. We organized an oral history collection project in partnership with StoryCorps, which were featured this summer on Chicago Public Media / WBEZ. We also began planning a set of public programs for 2018-2019 to include lectures, film screenings, book readings, and tours.
The Next Phase
While we have drafted the themes and content of the initial exhibits, our vision for the museum and the presentation of the content has expanded since we initiated this exciting project. The exhibits will include a variety of maps and photographs, historical artifacts, and interactive audio/visual displays. There will be opportunities for visitors to engage with and contribute to the ongoing collection of information about the area.
We are looking for backers to help us build the next phase of the Packingtown Museum!
Our needs include the following, and our project budget breaks out accordingly:
- Printing, signage, and graphics, including large-format maps, photos, and illustrations; timelines; depiction of hogs hanging on the meat rails; and design and implementation of a mural by Joe Miller - $9600
- Mounting and display - $3860
- Rights and reproduction fees; audio/video content - $2900
- Digital interfaces, audio equipment, website development - $6100
- Exhibit lighting - $1060
- Additional graphic design: promotional materials, wayfinding signage - $1880
The Packingtown Museum will be free to all and open to the public during designated hours and in conjunction with other activities and events at The Plant. Over 10,000 guests visit The Plant each year, and we intend to make this educational resource readily available for all visitors. There is already significant interest in the museum effort and excitement amongst visitors despite the space being a work in progress!
Join us and become a founding supporter of the Packingtown Museum! You’ll get first notice of all upcoming Packingtown programs and special events, and we'll be delighted to show you around our inaugural exhibit!
Risks and challenges
The Packingtown Museum is not intended to be a self-supporting organization, which makes it a bit of an oddball for the museum world. However, the project fits neatly with the mission of Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, a social enterprise. Bubbly has already demonstrated significant commitment toward the museum effort -- we recognized the need for this museum as part of the overall development of The Plant, and we have already invested approx $40,000 to improve the space in its entirety, from flooring to walls to ceiling.
In recognition of the benefit that the museum will provide to the general public, Bubbly commits to providing the space and ongoing in-kind support for the museum. We expect to realize occasional, modest revenues from rental of the space for events, which will help cover operational expenses. We plan to recruit volunteer docents who have worked in the Stockyards or even the building itself, as several such stakeholders have already expressed interest, and Bubbly otherwise intends to provide staff support as needed to facilitate operations.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)