Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project

The Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project ( represents an artistic and educational collaboration between a community Museum and a project team based at MIT. Southeast Chicago and Northwest Indiana once formed one of the largest industrial corridors in the world. After the region’s mills closed in the 1980s and 90s, residents of this racially and ethnically diverse region began donating photographs, home movies, letters, albums, documents, objects, and oral histories to the all-volunteer Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. The result was a unique and extensive repository of industrial life in the United States from the perspective of ordinary people.

The SECASP website tells the story of the transformation in what it means to be “working-class” in the United States through the objects that residents chose to save about their history and what those objects meant to them. The website includes an online archive and thirteen “featured curations,” or mini-exhibits, on topics such as “Black Experiences in the Mills” and “Women at Work.” The website also includes an innovative “storyline” section. The “storylines” are mini-interactive documentary pieces built from archival objects, i-doc techniques, and contemporary video footage that tell a larger story. Two of four “storylines,” Mexican-American Journeys about immigration experiences, and The Memorial Day Massacre, about a key 1937 labor event, are currently complete and accessible on the site. Another storyline, The Closing of the Mills, launches June 30, 2023, and From Wetlands to Waste, about contemporary environmental activism around industrial pollution, will launch in December 2023.

SECASP Project Director Chris Walley is an anthropologist who grew up in a steelworking family in Southeast Chicago and has published widely about the region. Walley and SECASP Co-Director Chris Boebel, a filmmaker, previously made a documentary feature, Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story (2017;, about the closing of the mills. Web artist Jeff Soyk is Creative Director of SECASP. Rod Sellers is Director of the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. SECASP won the 2022 Studs Terkel Prize for Media and Journalism from the Working-Class Studies Association and an honorable mention for the 2022 New Directions Award from the American Anthropological Association.

  • Christine Walley
    Producer/Writer: Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story (2017)
  • Chris Boebel
    Director: Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story (documentary feature, 2017); Red Betsy (fiction feature, 2003); Containment: Life After Three Mile Island (documentary feature, w/ Nick Poppy, 2004)
  • Jeff Soyk
    Lead Artists
    Creative/Art Director: Hollow (interactive documentary, 2013); Inheritance (interactive documentary, 2015); Zeki Muren Hotline (interactive 2016)
  • Rod Sellers
    Key Collaborators
    Director, Southeast Chicago Historical Museum
  • Steve Walsh
    Key Collaborators
    Director, Southeast: A City within a City (documentary feature, 2023)
  • Derek Potts
    Key Collaborators
    Project Archivist
  • Project Type:
    Interactive Film
  • Variable Runtime Details:
    The project includes an online archive and 'featured curations" or mini-museum exhibits that viewers explore at their own pace. The site also has 4 interactive documentary "storylines." Two storylines are completed; another will launch June 2023 and the final December 2023. Run-times for individual i-doc "storylines" range from 15 mins to 45 minutes depending on viewer choices. The site partially launched in 2022 and will be completed by end of 2023.
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Student Project:
  • Screening Scholarship Festival/ U Penn
    Philadelphia, PA
    United States
    April 1, 2023
  • Working Class Studies Association Conference - Award
    Portland, Oregon
    United States
    June 23, 2022
    Studs Terkel Prize for Media and Journalism
  • American Anthropological Association - Award
    Seattle, WA
    United States
    November 12, 2022
    Honorable Mention, New Directions Award, General Anthropology Division
Director - Christine Walley, Chris Boebel