Will County Historical MuseumHeritage Village
249 W 2nd St, Lockport, IL
This Farmhouse was an actual residence built along the I&M Canal corridor. My intent for this space is to alter how it is understood. While the farmhouse represents the popular perception of a quaint historic home of that era, through inclusion of historical documents within the space of the farmhouse, I confront the viewer with evidence of the true immigrant experience, allowing viewers to examine attitudes of expendability held toward immigrants at that time, and to reflect on those perceptions in relation to today.
This site functions in terms of place: this home represents comfort and security, and space as it has been positioned within the area along the I&M Canal— the space that I have freely explored along its 96-mile length. I&M immigrant workers never had a sense of place. They lived in transient labor camps along the Canal, living in squalor and filth, with many dying from poor working and living conditions and disease, moving with the work until it was completed.
Through this farmhouse exhibit, I acknowledge immigrants’ place in history—recognition of the place they never had and the space in which they coexisted. As these immigrants had no place, little is documented historically of their lives or work. However, through this exhibit, their existence is brought to the fore using archival fragments that serve to occupy the space within the farmhouse.
Title: The place they never had
‘Place’ is something that many I&M immigrant workers never had. These immigrants lived in temporary spaces as they carved the I&M Canal trench through open spaces along the canal corridor. Perhaps the only way that these immigrants could obtain their own place was perishing during the construction of the Canal due to unsafe work and living conditions, ultimately obtaining a burial plot in poorly marked graves. This bedroom installation acknowledges those immigrants’ place in history, in recognition of the place they never had and the space they coexisted in.
This work was created with watercolor, ink, charcoal, mud and grass combined with impressions of the spaces surrounding the canal, created by pressing paper against surfaces, including the lock’s limestone walls, bridge structures, grass, paths, forest areas, and cemeteries in the area.