"Hull-House History on Call"
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, ongoing.
“Jane Addams has so much to say to us—and all that extraordinary history is sometimes lost if you just see it as a thing of the past,” laments Jane Addams Hull-House Museum director Lisa Lee. With that thought as her impetus, Lee started to work on a way in which museum visitors could connect current social problems to the deeds and ideas of the late activist—in a truly modern way.
In the last few weeks, Lee and the Hull-House Museum staff have been putting the final touches on “Hull-House History on Call,” a service that allows visitors to use their cell phones to hear historic facts about Hull-House. In its previous incarnation, Hull-House provided progressive social services to individuals regardless of their race or income level, breeding a slew of intellectuals and artists. Now visitors can dial up a main line dubbed the “Hull-House History on Call” line (703-637-9317), and then plug in numbers written on labels near artifacts throughout the museum to hear recordings that delve into various topics. It’s the first time any museum in Chicago has implemented cell phone tours, but it’s not just the technology that makes this service au courant: The voice recordings feature famous intellectuals divulging the personal and unexpected ways the Hull-House and Jane Addams have an impact on today’s political issues.
For example, you can hear doctor and Nobel Peace Prize–nominee Helen Caldicott talk about how she is influenced by the late Alice Hamilton—doctor, founder of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Harvard’s first female prof, and a Hull-House resident for 22 years. “Caldicott was thrilled to talk about Hamilton and how physicians can contribute to a more socially just world,” says Lee.
In six recorded messages, other famous voices include local author Studs Terkel on the death of the Hull-House, cultural philosopher Vijay Prashad on ending racial conflict and former Weatherman Bill Ayers on why Jane Addams’s ideas were considered dangerous—and still might inspire action.—Madeline Nusser