Best Project to Chronicle of the Old Southeast Side

The Exit Zero Project

Critics' Picks

Earlier this year Christine Walley, a professor of anthropology at MIT, published Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago (University of Chicago Press), a hybrid memoir/monograph about her childhood on the southeast side, where her father was laid off from the first steel mill to shut down as the industry collapsed. The book wasn't a total success, but a project accompanying it is fascinating and important. Walley and her husband, the filmmaker Chris Boebel, are collecting testimonials from residents of the old southeast—now a radically changed landscape, both emotionally and physically—for an interactive online map; visitors to will be able to click on specific sites and learn their history, aided by old photos and documents from the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. (Visitors can leave their own recollections too.) There's also a documentary film, about how deindustrialization affected Walley's family and their community—those parts of her book that were easily the best. The goal, according to the website, is "to recapture the stories of a region traumatized by de-industrialization, and to look towards a future of economic opportunity and environmental justice for Southeast Chicago residents."