The DePaulia | Made in Chicago: the museum showcases the city’s products

While walking through an antique store in early January 2015, Chicago resident Andrew Clayman noticed a pale green kitchen scale sitting on one of the store’s shelves. Although initially attracted to his faded and worn face, Clayman made a life-changing discovery that ultimately sent him down a rabbit hole.

Barely visible among the faint letters on the Pelouze family scale from the 1930s Dial was a key word: Chicago.

“I didn’t give it much thought right away, but one day I decided it would be cool to research the history of the object,” Clayman said. “It was kind of fun going down the rabbit hole where he came from. So I bought a few more things, and after the snowball effect of growing my own collection of “Made in Chicago” things, I realized that if I thought it was interesting, maybe others would agree.

In the spring of 2022, DePaul students in the Production Design class created the design on the museum’s southeast wall. (Andy Thompson)

Following this revelation, Clayman launched his own “Made in Chicago Museum” website with the original intention of briefly documenting the Windy City roots of the few objects he had accumulated.

Visiting the museums for the first time, Turkish native-turned-Chicago resident Barkin Kurumoglu was struck not only by the sheer volume and story of the two exhibits, but also by the passion visible in each exhibit.

“Back home in Ankara [Turkey], unfortunately, for various factors, once something becomes considered old and outdated, it’s kind of left alone to ‘be there,’” Kurumoglu said. “Across Chicago, people are proud to say they’re from here and pride makes a difference. There is so much about Chicago architecture that is close to my heart, and the idea of ​​being mindful of the past and cherishing the memories rather than just moving forward with time feels special to me.

As traffic to his site and personal archive began to increase rapidly in 2017, Clayman realized he needed to share his growing collection, already hundreds strong, with the world. At this point, Clayman’s entirely self-funded collection of Chicago memorabilia began a tour of various downtown historical societies, with the website acting as a mobile “tour guide” for static exhibits.

Ana Mercado is Events Specialist for the Klairmont Collection. The museum began as a private storage facility. (Andy Thompson)

After the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, Clayman’s collection spent nearly two years in storage. Now, with the pandemic largely in the rearview mirror, Made in Chicago has found hope of being a new long-term partner in the vibrant Belmont-Cragin neighborhood, located on the sprawling campus of Clairmont Collections. Kollections is a museum of “more than 300 of the most amazing, impressive and intelligent vehicles a car enthusiast could ever hope to see in their lifetime”, according to their website.

In the vast halls of Klairmont is an automotive and aviation mecca, filled to the ceiling with rare vintage cars and planes, brightly colored posters and flashing neon signs from the start. of the 1900s. Like Clayman, current Klairmont president Robert Olson considers his 100,000-square-foot museum a hidden gem for fans of Chicago’s illustrious history.

“We love Chicago,” Olson said. “It was the Mecca of industry, manufacturing, steel mills, stockyards. Chicago could do it all. Anything we can do to celebrate Chicago is close to our hearts, and we thought there was no better way than to provide a small museum that actually contained hometown artifacts.

Museum President Robert Olsen and the late founder of the Klairmont Collection, Larry Klairmont, worked together to create “Made in Chicago.” (Courtesy of Robert Olson)

At the end of 2021, Olson finds the archives of Clayman Going through a promo video on Facebook and immediately invited him to the vacant space next to Klairmont Kollections founder Larry Klairmont’s own memorial. This exhibit dedicated to the late Mr. Klairmont, who died in July 2021 at the age of 94, celebrates his life as a World War II veteran and Chicago real estate magnate at the helm of Imperial Realty.

Klairmont Kollections began as a private storage facility for Mr. Klairmont’s collection of unique vehicles and memorabilia, located in what was once the sprawling WF Hall printing facility. In the months leading up to his passing, he decided to begin taking steps to open his collection to the public, and with the museum having since been granted non-profit status, the task of sharing Larry’s vision with the world now rests with Olson.

In June 2022, Olson took one of the first major steps towards realizing this vision as the Claymans collection spanned tightly into two brightly colored adjoining rooms.

“They had everything ready to go, and it was just a good fit,” Clayman said. “We all thought the same people interested in Klairmont would be interested in what we have to offer. It’s Chicago’s best-kept secret, not only as a car collection, but in the attention to detail, and I think people will enjoy seeing another like-minded project.

After Clayman’s space was launched within his museum, Olson began to shine a light on the automotive industry’s own connections to Chicago.

“Having the Made in Chicago zone is an exclamation point on our message of being Chicagoans,” Olson said. “People who come to the museum as Car Guys and Friends of Car Guys have preconceptions of what to expect, and the depth and variety of our facilities always blow their expectations.” Iconic cars such as 1948 Tucker “Torpedo” 48 and Deer Sears 1909 to be found in the collection.

The museum houses a mecca filled with rare cars and planes. Iconic cars such as the 1948 Tucker “Torpedo” 48 and the 1909 Sears Roebuck are found in the collection. (Andy Thompson)

Olson intends to further develop his relationship with Chicago. He invited a DEPaul Production Design class during the Spring 2022 term to create a design for the museum’s disused southeast wall.

“The diorama they created emanates from some of the other building facades we have, like Marshall Fields where Andrew is sitting or our Hot Doug’s tribute,” Olsen said. “They created a pharmacy and a dry-cleaning business that was a nod to Mr. Klairmont’s at the time and did a nice set design. Now our challenge is to engage our stakeholders to bring this vision to life for educational purposes and proudly display this space.

While Olson’s involvement with DePaul is largely forward-looking, Clayman’s own museum unearthed strong manufacturing ties to the current DePaul College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences on the Lincoln Park campus. . From 1906 until the 1970s, the four-story brick building was occupied. by the Eugene Dietzgen company, whose logo is still visible on its exterior. In the back room of Made in Chicago, a 1930s pen ink refill stand made at Dietzgen’s factory is on display, according to Clayman.

“I generally try to make an item represent a business, but of course there are exceptions,” Clayman said. “It’s a passion project, so budget and space may be limited, but there’s so much that I’m only scratching the surface of. I especially want to add more of the Bronzeville neighborhood. Finding and telling the stories of women and black-owned businesses has become a priority, and it’s something I will be working on over the coming year.

While the length of Made in Chicago’s partnership with Klairmont remains to be determined, Olson stressed that he intends to maintain the relationship for as long as possible and hopes the Klairmont Kollections and Clayman archives will prove to be a tool. invaluable for enlightening future generations. Chicagoans.

“Museums are much more than just static displays of yesteryear,” Olson said. “I expect them to be centers of education, learning, and entertainment. All of those things are represented in the museum, and we’re a great reminder of not only what Chicago was like, but also of what it could and should still be.

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