Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project

2022 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 tentatively titled “From Wetlands to Waste” on postindustrial environmental activism spearheaded by Latina leaders. 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
May 2023
Bartos Theatre, MIT Building E15
20 Ames Street, Cambridge, MA


Chris Boebel, Media Development Director, is a filmmaker based at MIT, where he is media development director at the MIT Office of Open Learning and teaches documentary filmmaking. Boebel is the writer/director of many short films and videos and three feature films, including Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story. His work has screened at more than 50 film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, and has received many awards including a New England Emmy.

Biography: MIT Open Learning
Social: iMDb

Christine Walley is Professor of Anthropology at MIT. Her first ethnography Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an East African Marine Park (Princeton University Press, 2004) explored environmental conflict in rural Tanzania. She is the author of Exit Zero: Family and Class in PostIndustrial Chicago (2013) 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 mediums 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 Director
Chris Boebel, Filmmaker and Co-Director
Jeff Soyk, Media Artist and Creative Director
Billy Wirasnik, Sound Designer

Storyline presented by the Southeast Chicago Historical Society & 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 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 SHASS; MIT Anthropology; and the Illinois State Records and Archive Board.