How well do you know Chicago? As in, really know it? Last week, the organization, Know Your Chicago (KYC) continued an almost 70-year tradition in opening up the minds of attendees via organized experiential learning sessions across the city.
Sponsored by the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, the KYC board of 50 distinguished women organize tours of various establishments and organizations in Chicago each year in order to “promote civic awareness and participation with the hope that participants will turn this special combination of access and information into action as they become better informed citizens.”
This year, while the KYC board was planning their annual tours they realized something. The likes of Bill Gates, Benjamin Franklin and Queen Victoria all have one thing in common: The Chicago Public Library! Thus, the Architects of Global Knowledge tour was born. Their stops? The Harold Washington Library and Chicago Public Library Chinatown branch.Staff from the Chicago Public Library Foundation had a chance to join the tour as the women of KYC listened to the CPL early childhood literacy initiatives, peeked into the special collections and preservation room, witnessed the innovative work happening at MakerLab, chilled out in the teen YouMedia space, and toured the architecturally renowned Chinatown Branch. Follow along as we recount the tour at the Harold Washington Library.
We began in the Harold Washington Library Special Collections Exhibit Hall. Fun fact learning one: Inaugurated in 1983, Harold Washington became Chicago’s 51st mayor and its first African-American mayor, and won re-election in 1987.
Attendees were guided through the impressive history of Harold Washington and learned all about what makes Chicago proud of him as an outstanding community member and powerful leader. Fun fact learning two: Harold Washington’s father was a police officer and a lawyer and his mother was a singer.
Next the tour guides quenched our thirst for knowledge about one of Chicago’s favorite refreshments, beer! Beer Chicago: The Refreshing History was not only pleasing to the eye with vintage artifact displays, but incredibly full of rich history about how beer and Chicago came together and continue to grow. Fun fact learning three: German immigrants established Chicago’s first brewery in 1833, serving its beer to the 200 early residents drinking in the city’s three taverns. Fun fact learning four: That same year at one of these establishments—Sauganash Tavern—the Town of Chicago became official after a gathering and vote of 12 to 1.
After whetting our appetites for more Chicago insight, the tour brought us into the Special Collections room where rare and unique materials from Chicago are on display. There is so much to say about what was seen in that breathtaking room, but it’s not polite to spoil the fun for those who want see it for themselves! Check out the #funfactfriday posts across our social media channels over the next few weeks to catch a glimpse of what we learned on this segment of the KYC tour. And if you attend, share some of your own and tag @cplfoundation along the way!
The two final stops of the morning included presentations from the YouMedia and Makerlab staff. The men and women present saw where teens go to design, create, read, write and “geek out” and saw firsthand how YouMedia created a space for teens to be themselves as they navigate the starry path of reaching for their dreams. MakerLab staff also demonstrated all that is possible with their 3D printers and cutting-edge technology to create pretty much anything you can imagine – from Halloween decorations to learning how to brew beer, the MakerLab is definitely engages the curious. Fun fact learning five: There have been 130,000 visits to the MakerLab since its 2013 launch and 1,200 workshops taught by program staff.
As you can see, it is possible to go on and on about The Architects of Global Knowledge tour. However, sometimes words cannot do the experience justice. Know Your Chicago continues to create opportunities to join them on these incredible journeys throughout Chicago. To learn more about the history of KYC and the tours they have done throughout the years, visit their website at knowyourchicago.org.
We thank Know Your Chicago for including the Chicago Public Library in this year’s journey. We feel Craig Davis, Director of Adult Services, said it best during the tour: “All of our programs are meant to enlighten, encourage and inspire.” Looking around the room, you could almost see a uniform nod in agreement.