Welcome to “Lessons of Place”, a new project I’ve been working on as part of a program celebrating the State’s Bicentennial. With support from Illinois Humanities and their “Forgotten Illinois” program, I’ve been traveling around the state photographing sites on Landmarks Illinois’ “Most Endangered Places” lists. Mostly, I have been looking at those on the 2018 list, but as I’ve been out and about I’ve been drawn to some from previous years too. I’m focusing on sites in small towns and rural areas.
In this project, I’m asking some questions about our idea of ‘place’ and whether it does or doesn’t matter in this context. Does a missing ‘sense of place’ lead to a site becoming endangered? Or does it become endangered despite having a strong sense of place? Can these places be saved? Do they need to be? What can we learn from their current condition and how they got this way? Anything?
How do these sites figure in our state history? Is it important to keep them standing to help us remember our history? Or can we remember our history in other ways?
Personally, I’m drawn to these old locales. I’m intrigued by their spirit. I’m drawn to their craftsmanship. I’m fascinated by the way they’ve worn. I love to stand by them and ponder what it was like when they were built. What it was like to live the life intended for them? I think about all the forces that were marshaled for their creation. Is that nostalgia?
Somewhat, sure. But it is something more. An appreciation of history. An affinity for complexities in the passage of time. An acknowledgment of loss, and change, and difference.
So far this journey has been a kind of pilgrimage. Though I have lived in Illinois for nearly half my life, in many ways I have still thought of myself as a Wisconsinite. And I do have a close affinity with our northern neighbor. But this project has been a wonderful opportunity for me to explore my present home state.
I’m sharing some pictures here below and will share more in future posts.
Please follow along with me. Let me know what you think in the comments. Share this with your friends.
If you’ve got ideas or suggestions of places I should take a look, or visit please shoot me an email or leave it in the comments.
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