Posts Tagged ‘Old South Side Settlement Museum’

Urban Anthropology in Milwaukee’s Old South Side

June 26, 2015

I discovered the wonderful work being done by Urban Anthropology while working on Tradition of Deceit.

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The organization’s museum and programs began when a group of cultural anthropologists in Milwaukee decided to apply their skills—cultural research, museum curation, cultural land-use, neighborhood oral histories, film-making, and others—to the city.

About half of Tradition of Deceit takes place in Milwaukee’s Old South Side, where my cop character, Roelke McKenna, began his career. I wanted to feature historic places, including the Basilica of St. Josaphat,

Basilica of St. Josaphat

The Basilica was built by Polish immigrants in a working-class neighborhood. What a testament to their faith!

Basilica of St. Josaphat

Visitors are welcome.  See the website for more information.

Kosciuszko Park,

Kozy Park

Note the blue police call box. Such boxes are locked and disused now, but a few decades ago they were essential.

Kozy Park

Statue of General Thaddeus Kosciuszko in Kozy Park.   This location played a key role in Tradition of Deceit.

and Forest Home Cemetery.

Forest home Cemetery

The Landmark Chapel, 1892. Forest Home Cemetery dates back to 1850. It includes a small museum,  walking tours and other programs featuring the historic area are offered periodically. The historic area of the cemetery is fascinating to wander.

Forest Home Cemetery

Side view of the Landmark Chapel entryway.

And right in the heart of this vibrant area, Urban Anthropology maintains the Old South Side Settlement Museum.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

The museum is in a lovely old home.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

The local community has always been culturally diverse, and the museum portrays change over time.

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Rooms in the front part of the house reflect the Polish immigrants who settled here in great numbers.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

The story of Polish immigration to Milwaukee includes a chapter about a community of fishing families.

Artifacts on the display help tell the story.

Artifacts on the display help tell the story.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

Although there are still many Polish-Americans in the Old South Side, other cultural groups have found a home in the area.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

The back part of the museum depicts more recent Mexican arrivals.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

Carefully chosen objects help convey this part of the story.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

I loved having the opportunity to compare and contrast. While many things changed in the presentation between the Polish and Mexican portions of the museum, it also becomes clear that many cultural traditions—such as the importance of faith and family—remain the same.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

I couldn’t resist showing a bookshelf that includes Little Town on the Prairie, The Settlement Cook Book, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.

If you want to walk in Roelke McKenna’s footsteps, and see some of the Milwaukee locations featured in Tradition of Deceit, you can easily visit all of these places in a single trip.

Important note:  The Old South Side Museum, 707 W. Lincoln Ave,  can only be accessed by prearranged tours. Call for reservations (414) 271-9417. $10 Adult, $8 seniors, students, and children.

From June – October, Urban Anthropology also offers walking tours on Saturday afternoons.  “The Cultures and Architecture of Lincoln Avenue” features the historic area, its ethnic groups, artists and architecture.  A tour of the Basilica of St. Josaphat is included.  Please call (414) 335-3729 to reserve a tour or for more information.

Wycinanki

March 30, 2015

Folk art plays a role in most of the Chloe Ellefson mysteries. Since Tradition of Deceit features bits of Polish culture, I decided to include wycinanki—the Polish form of paper cutting.

Wycinanki (pronounced vee-chee-non-kee) originated in the 1800s when shepherds passed quiet hours by snipping designs from leather or tree bark. Soon people were making intricate designs from paper, and pasting them on the walls or roof beams of their homes.

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The Open Air Museum of the Łowicz Region Village in Maurzyce.

The Open Air Museum of the Łowicz Region Village in Maurzyce

The Open Air Museum of the Łowicz Region Village in Maurzyce.

In the way-back days, folk artists used sheep shears to cut their designs.

sheep shears

Distinct styles emerged from different regions of Poland. Cuttings from the Kurpie region are often quite intricate, and usually a single color.

Polish Paper Cutting (Wycinanki), early 20th century The tree of life motif and monochromatic scheme suggest that this paper cutting represents the Kurpie or Lasek regions of Poland. Gift of Mrs. Maria Laskowski.  Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.4630a

Early 20th century.  The tree of life motif and monochromatic scheme suggest that this paper cutting represents the Kurpie or Lasek regions of Poland. Gift of Mrs. Maria Laskowski.
Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.4630a

Wycinanki from  Łowicz in central Poland is made by layering different colors. The example below most closely matches the wycinanki I imagined Magdalena making in Tradition of Deceit.

Polish Paper Cutting (Wycinanki), early 20th century This paper cutting reflects the Lowicz region of Poland, famous for its multicolored paper cuttings. Separately cut pieces are pasted atop a basic design, creating a layered effect. Gift of Mrs. J.J. Gostomski.  Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.4624

Early 20th century. This paper cutting reflects the Lowicz region of Poland, famous for its multicolored paper cuttings. Separately cut pieces are pasted atop a basic design, creating a layered effect. Gift of Mrs. J.J. Gostomski. Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.4624

Circular or star-shaped medallions are called gwiazdy.

sheep shears

c. 1950.  Gwiazdy incorporates geometric designs with circles, stars, polygons, and snowflakes. Gift of Irena Epler. Wisconsin Historical Museum object # 1956.1051

South Side Settlement Museum

Floral pattern, Old South Side Settlement Museum, Urban Anthropology Inc., Donated by Konkel Family.

Old South Side Settlement Museum, Urban Anthropology Inc., Donated by Konkel Family.

Two examples of bird patterns, Old South Side Settlement Museum, Urban Anthropology Inc., Donated by Konkel Family.

Artists have continued to develop the art of wycinanki.  Masters produce amazingly intricate designs.

wycinanki RoosterPapercut0064_500

Rooster papercut by Magdelana Gilinsky Jannotta. American Folklfe Center, Library of Congress.

While writing Tradition of Deceit I enjoyed several workshops with artist Kasia Drake-Hames, seen here with her grandmother (left) and mom (right).  Kasia’s grandmother makes exquisite traditional wycinanki…

Poland Under Glass wycinanki

Poland Under Glass, Milwaukee Domes, 2015.

..while Kasia often adds a modern twist.

wycinanki kasia drake-hames

From simple cuttings made with sheep shears to amazingly detailed pieces painstakingly snipped with scissors, wycinanki has a rich history—and colorful—history.