Monmouth, IL – A traveling exhibit from The Smithsonian celebrates Americans' traveling spirit. Journey Stories is now on display in western Illinois, where a little something extra has been added to the exhibit.
The installation is on display at the Buchanan Center for the Arts, which included a local version with photos and artifacts from Monmouth and the surrounding area.
One local section profiles the boxcar communities of Galesburg. They were built near train tracks for Mexican immigrants who worked for the railroad. They lived in long, single story brick buildings that provided no water or electricity.
Irene Ponce's grandparents came to Galesburg's boxcar community around 1920 and her father grew up there. Ponce says as the older generation passes on, it's important to document what they lived through with the local boxcar camps.
"They faced a lot of discrimination," says Ponce. "At the movie theater they had to sit in certain sections. They weren't allowed to go to Lake Storey. There were restaurants that would not serve them. There was a lot of discrimination that people just weren't aware of."
Jesse Luna grew up in Galesburg's boxcar community. Photos of Luna, his parents and siblings are included in the exhibit. There is also a photo of a boxcar chapel. It was built because Mexicans were not allowed in the town's churches.
The National Railroad Hall of Fame also contributed to the local installation of Journey Stories. Four minority groups are profiled, including African-Americans who worked as Pullman porters.
Hall of Fame Executive Director Julie King says it was a difficult but well-respected job that helped establish the black middle class.
"The children of Pullman porters gained a college education at a much higher rate than their peers. It indeed was a stepping stone," says King.
The Smithsonian's large panels feature audio, slideshows, text and artifacts. The panels explore numerous topics such as the early migration to the continent, the westward expansion, and increased mobility brought about by planes, trains and automobiles.
The local installation included an opening ceremony that featured speeches by Smithsonian Curator Emeritus Bill Withuhn and Lewis University assistant professor of history Dennis Cremin. You can listen to those speeches by visiting the Emphasis section of our website.
Journey Stories will remain on display at the Buchanan Center for the Arts until March 14.