History Lessons Now Open!

National Public Housing Museum
History Lessons: Everyday Objects from Chicago Public Housing

The National Public Housing Museum is pleased to invite you to  History Lessons: Everyday Objects from Chicago Public Housing. The exhibit opens on May 30th and runs through July 27th.

History Lessons features an array of ordinary objects from public housing residents that help tell the extraordinary stories of their owners, including a championship boxing belt owned by Lee Roy “Solid Gold” Murphy, and the leather motorcycle jacket of legendary Cabrini-Green organizer, Marion Stamps. The exhibition will also feature a mural-sized newly commissioned painting by Milton Reed, an artist who transformed thousands of apartments in the Robert Taylor Homes into dreamy landscapes. 

Over twenty objects are accompanied by labels written by public housing residents, created during workshops with Audrey Petty, author of High Rise Stories, and award-winning Chicago poet Nate Marshall, as well as interview-based labels conducted by photo-historian Richard Cahan. “What we have found is evocative of what life was like in Chicago public housing,” says Cahan, who co-organized the exhibit with the Museum’s Executive Director Lisa Yun Lee.  “The shortest distance between two people is a story,” Lee says, “and these objects help to tell both the beautiful and troubled history of public housing in Chicago and the diverse experiences of those who survived and thrived in those communities.”

The exhibition also includes our new Animal Court Audio Story, a collection of oral history interviews recorded in the past year by the Museum’s Oral History Corps. The audio features public housing residents and their Near West Side neighbors, including Desiree Davidson, Dennis O’Neil, Ida Brantley, Blanche Winston, and Mary Baggett, as they reminisce about these enchanting animals.

You can listen to a story collage that spans decades of memories by calling (312) 348-7834.

The recordings included in the story were conducted by Shirley Alfaro, Shakira Johnson, and Francesco de Salvatore.  The audio stories were funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.


The exhibition is reachable by public transit. Ample street-meter parking surrounding the office is available as well as a public parking lot at 520 North Kingsbury Street, which charges $12 per hour at the corner of Grand and Kingsbury. 

This event is wheelchair accessible. Individuals requiring sign-language interpreters, real-time captioners, or other accommodations should contact Mark Jaeschke at 773.245.1621 or mjaeschke@nphm.org at least one week in advance of the event.