What Is the Midwest? | Newberry

What Is the Midwest?

"Map of the Western States." John M. Atwood, 1853

“Map of the Western States.” John M. Atwood, 1853

Friday, September 20, 2019Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Trienens Galleries

Open to the Public

Often called “the Heartland” or “flyover country,” the Midwest tends to be characterized as a homogeneous, barren space between the American coasts. This exhibition challenges the assumptions, stereotypes, and persistent narratives about the Midwest, exploring the confluence of peoples and environmental conditions that has defined the region and made it unique.

Spanning roughly 400 years—from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first—the exhibition tells a multitude of stories using various Newberry collections, including maps, art, promotional ephemera, archival photos and videos, and personal letters and diaries.

Starting Saturday, September 28, free docent-led tours of the exhibition will be offered on Fridays and Saturdays at 2 pm and Tuesdays at 11 am.

What Is the Midwest? is generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A series of public programs and a set of digital resources will also explore the major themes of this exhibition in the fall of 2019.

The Newberry Library is located on the lands of American Indians, who have persisted longer than the United States has been a nation. We acknowledge that Potawatomi, Odawa, Sauk, Ojibwe, Illinois, Kickapoo (Kiikaapoi), Miami (Myaamia), Mascouten, Wea, Delaware, Winnebago, Menominee, and Mesquakie villages resided and traded along Lake Michigan’s shoreline from precontact through the nineteenth century. The Newberry honors and respects Chicago’s diverse American Indian community.

  • 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

Cost and Registration Information 

This exhibition is free and open to all.