My interest in University boundaries and properties was piqued as a first-year during Orientation Week. I noticed that the upperclassmen leading our orientation meetings on transportation and city life did not tell us exactly where we should or shouldn’t go, but instead told us the boundaries of the University of Chicago Police Department’s patrol zone: Lake Shore Drive to the East, Cottage Grove to the West, 37th street to the North, and 64th street to the South. Over the course of my past two years at UChicago, this definition of space and place in terms of police boundaries became increasingly apparent and significant, especially in relation to the neighborhood’s often contentious histories of expansion and dispossession. From March through September of 2015, I worked on the first phase of this larger project, titled “Outside That System and Hence Unspeakable,” a run of 1000 copies of a 22” by 28” newsprint poster (funded in part by UChicago’s Student Fine Arts Fund) and a companion website. The newsprint poster uses black-and-white photographs that I took of various building typologies and properties that fell both inside and outside of the University of Chicago’s police boundaries juxtaposed against maps, timelines, and text appropriated from both University materials and outside sources to examine the nature of institutional space-definition, place-making and boundaries in Hyde Park and beyond.
For the second phase of this project, titled “Let Our Impact Grow From More To More,” I have created an interactive story map through ArcGIS online, a mapping platform created by ESRI, that depicts key phases and policies regarding the University of Chicago’s land use and expansion, using data culled from historic maps, archival sources, and various University websites. The title of this project, borrowed from a fundraising slogan from UChicago’s multibillion-dollar “Inquiry and Impact” capital campaign and itself a reference to the University’s motto (“Let knowledge grow from more to more, and so be human life enriched”), aims to highlight the often aggressive and contentious relationships between the University and its surrounding communities throughout its 125-year history. Though UChicago’s fundraising and promotional materials make frequent use of the word “impact” to highlight the positive values of its contributions to research and intellectual inquiry, it is important to recognize a less savory, yet equally significant side of the University’s impact: the tangible, physical impact that the University and its land use decisions and policies have had on the landscape and morphology of Hyde Park and its environs, whose consequences reverberate to the present day.
In this story map, I use maps and geospatial data to trace and connect numerous histories of the University’s land use and expansion, from Marshall Field’s modest land grant in 1891 to the hundreds of properties presently owned, the University’s role in defending racially-restrictive covenants and its later investments in urban renewal, the creation and expansion of the second-largest private police force in the world, and its future role in the development of the Barack Obama Presidential Library, amongst numerous others. However, the history that I present here is by no means comprehensive; there are still many more histories and geographies to tell that I lack the time, resources, or data to depict here. I aim to use these visual mapping tools to ease the process of seeing, exploring, and interpreting these data, much of which lies dormant in archives or spreadsheets buried in the bowels of University websites. As students of the University of Chicago, it is crucial that we understand the histories of the violence that it has perpetrated in both overt and covert ways, ostensibly in our best interests, and that what we are told about the University and its surrounding neighborhoods during orientation is never the full story.