Exploring Hidden Gems of Chicago’s Past

NEIU Students Get a Glimpse Into Chicago’s Rich Past at the Chicago History Museum


Ananth Prabhu, Health & Sports Editor

On Wednesday, March 29, 2023, NEIU’S Pedroso Center helped to host and organize a trip to the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park as a part of Diversity Week, and Student Leadership Development (SLD) sponsored the trip to the museum. During Diversity Week, two additional events were conducted for students’ enjoyment. One of those events was the Diversity Food Fest. During the Food Fest, student organizations made assorted foods from around the world for the greater NEIU community to enjoy, and it served as a fundraising opportunity for student organizations. The other event featured student-made bracelets on March 27th, and each bracelet represented the location of each student’s ancestry, and it was unique “to see all the colors of [world] flags of where people are from,” according to Alexa Perez, Program Assistant for SLD.

Perez shared her motivation behind organizing the outing to the museum. Perez emphasized the importance of providing students from different backgrounds with the opportunity to experience Chicago beyond the university campus. “It’s good to get out of the university to really experience Chicago, like living it, and seeing the history behind it, which is the diversity around us, because that is what really makes Chicago, Chicago,” Perez said in an interview with The Independent. Perez implied that since Chicago is such a vast city, NEIU students may not have sufficient time to explore Chicago, its museums and all the cultural opportunities nestled within the city. Thus, Perez chose a museum that features culture, diversity and history that represents Chicago in all of its glory.

The outing to the museum allowed students to learn about different cultures and the unique local history that Chicago’s people throughout the ages have experienced. “It kind of opens your eyes,” Perez said, “to say that people immigrated to Chicago, like how diverse it is, how it really envelops in all of our lives.” She hoped that the outing would help students see people in a different, beautiful light, and connect with the ways in which we come together as a diverse community. She emphasized that SLD is always open to programming suggestions from students, and hopes to continue bringing new experiences to the campus community.

The museum had much to offer, including small-scale models of past and present architecture, infrastructure growth, geography’s influence on the city and the city’s expansion after the fire. Visitors could appreciate the diverse history of Chicago, from architecture to jazz, sports teams, shopping, food and local corporations. The museum also provided personalized tours with one soft-spoken elderly gentleman helping to give the group of NEIU students knowledgeable insight into significant events that played a pivotal role in molding the city into its current form. The Independent interviewed diverse students that attended the museum, and these students gave varied perspectives on their visit to the museum. 

Jocelyn Gamboa, an undergraduate student majoring in computer science, shared her experience about touring the museum as a first-time visitor. She learned about the Eastland disaster, a tragic event that happened in 1915 and claimed the lives of more than 800 people. Gamboa plans to revisit the museum with her family and friends. She encourages other NEIU students to visit the museum as it allows them to learn more about the city they live in and how it has changed over time. Gamboa believes that it is important to learn about local history because local history explains the relevance of various significant landmarks throughout the city.

Jocelyn Valencia, an undergraduate student majoring in English, had visited the museum before, but she found something new during her most recent visit. She particularly enjoyed the new exhibit about the Chicago Fire, which she found informative about the materials and history of the disaster. She plans to visit again to check out any new exhibits, stating that revisiting history is important as it can change, as well as learning about diverse cultures, and the people of the past who helped to rebuild Chicago into its current incarnation. She suggests all students to visit the museum to learn about the diverse cultures, and her specific recommendation is for all students to watch The Great Chicago Adventure Film at the permanent exhibit housed in the Robert R. McCormick Theater of the museum.

Samantha Andrade, an undergraduate student majoring in Spanish, found her favorite part of the museum to be the exhibit on businesses, particularly Oscar Mayer and Radio Flyer, which were big parts of her childhood. She also appreciated the photos of people of her own culture dancing and those with disabilities marching with a flag, as they related to her own life. Andrade claims that the museum was adequately accessible with working elevators, accessible doors and ramps. Andrade recommends the museum for its insights into the city’s history and its different perspectives, and plans to visit again in the future. Although not her first time at the museum, it was nice for her to re-experience everything and see how some exhibits had stayed the same and some were new.

Perez plans to do similar events with the Northeastern Programming Board (NPB) in the future. The NPB’s slogan, “programming for the students, by the students,” reflects the department’s commitment to creating programming that is tailored to students’ interests and needs. The success of this year’s Diversity Week outing to the Chicago History Museum perfectly highlighted the value of providing students with opportunities to explore the city and learn about its diverse history. The initiative was well-received.

  While many Chicagoans opt for the visitation of larger museums like the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum or the Art Institute, the Chicago History Museum in the Lincoln Park neighborhood offers a smaller but equally classy option. The museum showcases the history of Chicago from its earliest days with the native people, through the settlement period, the Chicago Fire, and into the recent past.

The outing to the Chicago History Museum during Diversity Week was a success. NEIU students who attended the outing expressed their desire to revisit the museum and learn more about the history of Chicago. The success of this outing has highlighted the importance of providing students with opportunities to explore their local history and learn about the diverse cultures that make up their communities. The museum showcased the transformation of Chicago through the ages from its early days of settlement to the present days of urban expansion.

The museum offers free admission on certain days throughout the year to Illinois residents. Membership rates and non-member daily admission vary according to a few tiers.