What Is the Midwest? | Newberry

What Is the Midwest?

With generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, What Is the Midwest? is a multidisciplinary project comprising digital resources, public programs, and a gallery exhibition on view at the Newberry from September 20 through December 31, 2019. Offering perspectives beyond stereotypes of the Midwest as the nondescript “middle” of the country, the project explores the unique confluence of environmental and human factors that has defined the region and made it distinct. 

Gallery Exhibition

  • Le Cours de Missisipi. Map by Nicolas de Fer, 1718.
  • "Who wants to emigrate to the great western country!" J.M. Stokes & Co., ca. 1865
  • From Mary Tremonte's pamphlet titled "Great Soft Power," 2016.
  • Map of the Illinois Central and Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroads. Poole Bros., 1903
  • The New Yorker's idea of the United States. Cartoon by John T. McCutcheon, 1922

On view September 20 - December 31, 2019. Often called “the Heartland” or “flyover country,” the Midwest tends to be characterized as a homogeneous, empty space between the American coasts. The exhibition component of our What Is the Midwest? project challenges the assumptions, stereotypes, and persistent narratives about the Midwest through a selection of Newberry collections, including maps, art, promotional ephemera, archival photos and videos, and personal letters and diaries.

"What Is the Midwest?" Public Programs

Roundtable: What Is the Midwest? by Newberry Library

Indigenous Languages of the Midwest by Newberry Library

Great Migration Music by Newberry Library

Midwest Time Machine

Travel to the past via first-hand accounts from letters, diaries, and rare books from the Newberry’s archives. Witness the Chicago Fire, join the Lewis and Clark expedition, and marvel at the World’s Fair through manuscripts transcribed by our online volunteers.