Walley and Boebel receive $195k NEH grant for the Exit Zero Project
Grant supports the digitization of archives and project website
“The Exit Zero Project's moving ethnography of deindustrialization and environmental damage in the late-twentieth century American midwest is engaged anthropology at its very best.”
— Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology and Program Head
MIT Professor of Anthropology Christine Walley and MIT-based filmmaker Chris Boebel have been awarded a $195,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to advance the Exit Zero Project, a multimedia historical and anthropological collaboration with the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum that includes participation from the MIT Libraries and the MIT Open Doc Lab.
“We're absolutely thrilled to receive NEH support for this project,” said Walley. “The goal is to create a website that is both an online archive and storytelling site documenting the social history of the old steel mill region of Southeast Chicago and the long-term impacts of industrial job loss — a devastating economic reality for many other parts of the country as well.”
Digitizing archives for new storytelling methods
The grant will help to fund the digitization of selected material from the the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum collection, to develop long-term preservation techniques for these newly digitized assets, as well as to build and launch the first phase of the Exit Zero website.
“Walley’s anthropological research, writing, and filmmaking shows us how large-scale structures of inequality come to ground in the intimacies of daily life,” said Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology and Program Head. “Her moving ethnography of deindustrialization and environmental damage in the late-twentieth century American midwest is engaged anthropology at its very best."
In addition to the website and digitized archive, the Exit Zero Project has already featured an award-winning book by Walley, published in 2013, as well as a feature-length documentary adaptation in 2017. The book and film, both titled Exit Zero, use home movies and archival footage to tell the story of multiple generations of Walley’s family in the once-thriving steel mill community of Southeast Chicago.