Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project

2022–23 Fay Chandler Creativity Grant

Introductory page for the in-progress SECASP storyline on environmental contamination and activism. Credit: Chris Boebel and Jeff Soyk.
Introductory page for the Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project (SECASP) website. Credit: Jeff Soyk.
Introductory page for the SECASP Digital Archive. Credit: Jeff Soyk.
Items donated to the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. Credit: Jeff Soyk, Chris Boebel, Derek Potts.
Introductory page for the SECASP mini-documentary or “storyline” on immigration as told through the Mexican-American experience. Credit: Jeff Soyk.
Introductory page for the SECASP storyline on the nationally-influential 1937 labor event known as the Memorial Day Massacre. Credit: Jeff Soyk.

History is made through the objects we save and the stories we tell about them


History is often told from the viewpoint of the powerful. For most of us, however, history is bound up with the everyday objects we save and the stories we tell that give them meaning. 

The Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project highlights a remarkable collection of objects, gathered and preserved by residents of a steel mill community as its industrial base was collapsing, and “storylines” that explore their meaning by weaving together artifacts, documentary film, and online storytelling. 

Christine Walley, Chris Boebel, and Jeff Soyk collaborate on a new documentary storyline on post-industrial environmental activism spearheaded by Latina leaders. Tentatively titled “From Wetlands to Waste,” the storyline begins with the artifact of a jar of “petcoke,” an industrial pollutant that community activists successfully fought against. 

More about the project:


Upcoming Events

Public Presentation
Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project: “From Wetlands to Waste”
Fall 2024
Bartos Theater, MIT Building E15
20 Ames Street, Cambridge, MA 


MIT Open Learning’s media development director Chris Boebel is a filmmaker and the writer/director of many short and feature films, including Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story, a documentary media project tracing the long-term effects of deindustrialization on Southeast Chicago. At MIT, Boebel teaches classes on VR and documentary film. His work has screened at more than 50 film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival.

Biography: MIT Open Learning
Social: iMDb

Christine Walley is a professor of anthropology at MIT. Her first ethnography, Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an East African Marine Park, explored environmental conflict in rural Tanzania. She is the author of Exit Zero: Family and Class in Post-Industrial Chicago, which uses family stories to explore the long-term impacts of deindustrialization and its role in expanding class inequalities in the United States through the lens of the former steel mill community of Southeast Chicago.

Biography: MIT Department of Anthropology
Social: Facebook

Jeff Soyk is an award-winning media artist with experience in creative direction, UX design, UI design, front-end development, animation, and film/video. Soyk’s passion for meaningful stories and multiple media has led him to interactive documentary making, as he recognizes the potential to create engaging experiences with a positive influence. Soyk is an MIT OpenDocLab fellow alum, and his work combines the intimate, close-level detail of conventional ethnography with the aesthetic unity and emotional gravity of arthouse films.

Social: Instagram | Twitter | YouTube | Facebook | Vimeo


Storyline Design Team

Christine Walley, Anthropologist and Project Co-Director
Chris Boebel, Filmmaker and Project Co-Director
Jeff Soyk, Media Artist and Creative Director
Billy Wirasnik, Sound Designer

Storyline presented by the Southeast Chicago Historical Society and the Exit Zero Project, with funding from the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology and MIT Anthropology

Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project Team

Christine Walley, Project Co-Director
Chris Boebel, Project Co-Director
Jeff Soyk, Creative Director, UX + UI Designer, Front-End Developer (Storylines)

Rod Sellers, Director, Southeast Chicago Historical Museum
Karen Brozynski, President Southeast Chicago Historical Society
Carolyn Mulac, Secretary and Treasurer, Southeast Chicago Historical Society

Derek Potts, Archivist
Jared Kerschner, Back-End Developer
Krispin Dolbear, Front-End Developer

Peter Alter, Advisory Committee, Chicago History Museum
Olga Bautista, Advisory Committee, Community Representative
Dominic Pacyga, Advisory Committee (emeritus), Columbia College
Alberto Rincon, Advisory Committee, Community Representative
Madeleine Tudor, Advisory Committee, Field Museum
Steven Walsh, Advisory Committee, Community Representative

MIT Libraries (Nancy McGovern, Ellen Finnie, Anne Marie Willer, Katie Zimmerman)
Paige Mazurek, Video Editor, Assistant UX + UI Designer (Storylines)
Billy Wirasnik, Sound Artist
Diane Pugh, Secondary Archivist
Maya Rodriguez, Research Assistant
Lauren Kapsalakis, Archival Assistant
Chris Boebel, Videographer/Photographer
Hannah Waleaver, Videographer/Photographer
Anna Vold, Student Assistant
Jocelyn Yu, Student Assistant
Gabby Ballard, Student Assistant
Hans Han, Student Assistant
Kate Hansen, Student Assistant
Tyler White, Student Assistant

Funding for the Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; MIT Anthropology; and the Illinois State Records and Archive Board.