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Introduction to the Urban Experience in Chicago: Hull-House and its Neighborhoods website

Unless otherwise noted, editorial narrative is by Rima Lunin Schultz.

Urban Experience in Chicago: Hull-House and Its Neighborhoods, 1889-1963, is a history website that has been constructed at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is sponsored by the College of Architecture and the Arts and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Construction of the site began in the spring of 2002, and the site was launched on January 27, 2003, with the basic elements of its overall design in place. Work continues as we refine the major sections and add new material.

This history website has been conceived as an on-going research project that engages scholars and students at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As we finish new research initiatives we will integrate them into the existing structure of the site. In some cases new work provokes the construction of different formats on the website to express and visualize the content. The Timeline, described below, was designed as a result of our interest in using images rather than text to "narrate" the life of Jane Addams. The website is completely searchable and contains more than 900 separate texts, including correspondence, newspaper articles, unpublished memoirs, magazine and journal articles, maps, and hundreds of images of historic significance for documenting the life and times of Jane Addams, the history of the social settlement movement and of Hull-House, and the history of the Near West Side neighborhood and its immigrant communities.

Besides this Introduction page, the Urban Experience website is divided into six major sections: Historical Narrative, Timeline, Images, Geography, Teachers' Resources, and Search. Each section has a different focus and strategy to engage viewers in the subject matter.

When you turn to Historical Narrative, you will find an index listing twelve major chapters and numerous subsections. These subsections contain lists of historical documents (including letters, newspaper and magazine articles, memoirs, unpublished manuscripts). All of these documents have been transcribed for the site and some also contain a PDF version to capture the actual historical image. Also listed in the subsections are galleries of images and essays written by historians specifically for this website. The twelve chapters are:

Beginnings of Settlement Life in Chicago
The Social Settlement as Contested Space
Constructing the Hull-House Complex
Social Research and Social Activism at Hull-House
The Nature of Residency
The Resident as Labor Activist: A Contested Role
Immigration and Migration: Ideas of Race, Citizenship, and Community
Hull-House and Education
Cultural Space in the City and Neighborhood
Recreational and Public Space
Jane Addams: The Personal and the Political
Hull-House After Jane Addams

Each of the chapters contains an interpretive narrative, selected essays and images, and a great variety of historical texts including relevant letters, memoirs, newspaper and magazine articles, popular literature, political tracts and cartoons.

The Timeline contains an animated photo biography of Jane Addams that runs with Flash player 6.0. Images of Addams are arranged both chronologically and topically, and contain annotations written by the Editors of the site.

The Images section takes viewers directly into the image essays that the Editors have created. These image essays are listed under the chapters in which they appear and contain brief descriptions of the photographs and illustrations in each essay. Once "inside" an image essay, you may click on a thumbnail image to see a larger image with a caption and full citation, and then make your way through the rest of the essay by clicking "Previous Image" or "Next Image."

The Geography section contains historic neighborhood maps in PDF format as well as a series of reconstructed ground plans of the Hull-House complex that were created for the Urban Experience site using data gathered by architectural historian Vincent L. Michael. These ground plans reveal the ways in which the Hull-House complex grew and changed over its 74 year history on Halsted Street.

The Teachers' Resources section contains a variety of materials designed to guide curriculum focussed on Jane Addam's best-known work, Twenty Years at Hull-House. Drawing on scholarly research by Addams biographers and Hull-House historians, the Editors use this section to problematize the concepts of autobiography and history and reveal the ways in which Addams fictionalizes and mythologizes her own history and that of Hull-House. Included is a set of study questions and comments related to one critical chapter of Addams's book: "Reading Chapter 5: 'First Days at Hull-House.'" This study guide introduces primary sources (such as letters and newspaper articles) that address the same points that Addams makes about the development of the settlement. Teachers and students are asked to interrogate these documents and consider the ways in which they challenge the story that Addams tells. The Editors also use an image essay "Illustrating Twenty Years at Hull House: Ladies' Home Journal, Lewis Hine and Norah Hamilton" to encourage teachers and students to think about the meaning of the photographs and illustrations that Addams and her publishers used to tell her story.

Finally, the Search page allows you to find primary and secondary source documents from the Historical Narrative by title, author, advanced author (which allows you to narrow your search by typing in an author's name, date of publication, and type of document), or word or exact phrase from a document. You can also browse our list of general keywords to find documents by subject. The Search Results page that displays after you have performed a search allows you to click on the document itself or to go to the subsection in which that document appears so that you can find similar documents. The Search page also allows you to find images by year or word/phrase.

[Updated on January 14, 2005.]