August 9, 2019 – November 3, 2019
Opening Reception and Panel Discussion: Friday, August 9, 2019 at 6:00 PM. Free and open to the public.
Founded at the Field Museum in 2010, the Global Wellness in Urban Chicago initiative began with a need and desire to begin collecting objects of contemporary urban culture that reflect local Chicago communities. The project began with collecting artifacts from cultural pharmacies in the city, but has since expanded to incorporate personal interviews with local Chicagoans on health and research on how differing community gardens impact wellness, with an focus on lower-income, immigrant and refugee communities. Today, researchers in anthropology, biology and medicine compile multitudes of data to assist in research, tell stories of and make connections with Chicago’s cultural histories and wellness by neighborhood. The project is an ongoing effort to collect and study objects related to food, culture and well-being.
This ongoing research demonstrates that the concept and understanding of wellness is very complex. How we choose to pursue wellness is influenced by our identity, our family and our environment. Modes of well-being are interwoven in our everyday practices—from choosing what you eat for breakfast to how you deal with a sore throat. Extending beyond the absence of illness, wellness encompasses the psychological and sociological environments that define us, including our sense of community, belonging and fullness.
Global Wellness in Urban Chicago aims to demonstrate the complex and constantly changing notions of health and wellness through how people learn, change and pass on knowledge about herbal remedies and cultural notions. Showcasing the project’s ongoing research of urban wellness, this exhibition features six case studies highlighting the use of plants found in common community gardens. The research of Global Wellness in Urban Chicago is told through these commonly used plant specimens, photography and local storytelling.
About the Researchers: We are researchers in ecology, public health, and anthropology at University of Illinois Chicago and Field Museum. Our team includes museum curators, faculty members, and graduate, undergraduate, and high school students.
Project Background: In 2010, Dr. Alaka Wali, the curator of North American Anthropology at The Field Museum, helped to convene a symposium considering the meaning and methodology of an Urban Contemporary Collection at The Field Museum. The symposium resulted in a protocol for a holistic research project titled Urban Health and Well-Being, an effort to collect herbal products and document herbal remedies, traditional knowledge, and cultural practices surrounding how people achieve and define well-being and health in Chicago neighborhoods. The herbal collection currently stands at around 200 objects, and additional research and contextualization of the objects is ongoing. In the summer of 2015, the Urban Health and Well-Being project entered a new phase with research turning to personal interviews with Chicagoans about their ideas and practices of wellness.
In 2016, the project further expanded and partnered with a team of anthropologists and biologists from University of Illinois at Chicago to look at community gardens and their impact on wellness in different communities in Chicago. For this aspect of the project, we looked at gardens in mostly lower-income, immigrant, or refugee communities to learn more about how gardening impacts people living with fear of gentrification, land insecurity, and living within food deserts, just to name a few scenarios. To learn more about the biological impacts of community gardens, check out this site. If you would like to learn more about the work that has gone into the Urban Health and Well-Being project, check out the Behind the Scenes page.
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.