I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book - focus on a period of time in Chicago that I find fascinating. On a recent trip to The Dreihaus Museum (blog review here)- I became very interested in how the majority of the populace in Chicago lived at the time. That's why The Jungle got onto my reading list. The juxtaposition of the lives portrayed in the book versus the Marble Mansion is quite stark. The facilitator from the Chicago History Museum added good commentary on the historical inaccuracies or questions that exist in the book. That was perhaps my favorite part of the book group.
The book group was attended by about a dozen people - the average age was in the middle 60's. There were three sessions; the last session being a bus tour of the Back-of-The-Yards. For me there were two highlights of the Book Club - the use of historic photos and exhibits to supplement the imagery from Sinclair's book, and the tour. The discussion of the group itself was not significant.
The discussion sessions were not quite satisfying. The agenda and schedule for the group classes was:
- Introductions / photo show (45 minutes)
- Walking through CHM exhibits (public) (45 minutes)
- Break (15 minutes)
- Group Discussion (15 minutes) "Who is your favorite character?”
These photos below show some of the artifacts from the CHM relative to the period of The Jungle. The knives themselves helped me see how challenging those jobs must have been. The copper vessel I just happened to like because I have one very similar in my antique collection :)
|Implements from the Stock Yards - Chicago|
|Copper Vessel - Settlement House Work - Chicago|
- Intros/ Photos (15 min)
- Attendee show and Tell (15 min)
- Discussion - (30 min) a few participants asked a question for group discussion.
- Archive tour (30 min)
The show and tell portion of this session was spontaneous it seemed. People brought in old family items, work memorabilia or shared stories they had heard from friends. For me it wasn't particularly value add to the session, however the others in class seemed to enjoy it. The group discussion was a bit chaotic as the questions raised by the participants spanned several themes and sections of the book. Folks kept circling back to prior discussions. That said, there were a few interesting points. The photos below are from our visit to the back-of-the-house in the museum archives. The facilitator had pulled several documents that were related to The Jungle and the period in Chicago history. Many of the items were the photos that had been displayed in sessions 1 & 2, there were also journals from the Meat Packing association and Lithuanian texts. The journals of heads processed and prices paid was awesome.
|Journals from the late 1890's Chicago|
|Archives / Storage at Chicago History Museum|
- Intro / Photos (20 minutes)
- Discuss socialism (10 minutes)
- Trolley tour (90 minutes)