REVIEW: Chicago History Museum highlights Muslim voices in American Medina

Happy Friday everyone! It is finally time for the weekend and you know what that means…Well… you do, I don’t. Aside from life being extremely chaotic lately, I visited the new American Medina exhibit at the Chicago History Museum this week.

I must say, I went into this exhibit not knowing what to expect. As a Muslim woman, I am always subconsciously preparing for the worst. It is a really bad habit that I and many others have. I was given a guided tour with the curator for a story I am working on. The curator was extremely kind and very passionate about the exhibit. He told me the back story on how years ago they planned to have exhibits that highlight the Abrahamic faiths. The new exhibit took many years to put together, I believe he said about four.

The exhibit is an oral history with many different artifacts and images from Muslim culture around the Chicagoland area. The eye-catching artwork on the wall with large print of the exhibition title and bright colors excited me as I walked in. I was immediately drawn to that side of the museum, even though I was heading their anyway.

On the wall just before the doorway to the exhibit are images placed within the designs. I liked that the exhibit extended outward, and I also liked that the images were so eye catching and memorable. One that really stuck out to me was the Rohingya Culture Center’s soccer team. Could be because I know a bit of the back story, but that was the first image I noticed.

Through the entrance you can hear folklore sounding music and Muslim voices from a variety of areas. Each room has a cubical-like area designed to match Islamic architecture. In each cubical you can select an image of one of the Muslims chosen for the exhibit, to hear their interview and story. There is also a short film played just right of the entrance.

The exhibit started off light. It hit all of the art, literature and interactive pieces an exhibition needs. Then it got deep, and I got emotional. I must say, I was fighting back tears for a variety of reasons, but I really didn’t think that would happen.

A black hallway with four small screens and a Malcome X quote on the wall got me. As you make your way through the entrance of the hallway, a voice recording is initiated. It tells stories of discrimination, fear and “Anti-Muslim Racism.”

Below are some of the many pictures I took of the exhibit.

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I fought back tears as it reminded me of how important it is to have a pure heart and open mind. It brought me back to times of hatred spewed upon myself and those I love. It is an ugly world sometimes, but seeing a place full of beauty, grace and strength made me feel strong and empowered. The exhibit really captures the different phases of life a Muslim has felt and gone through.

Overall, I would say the exhibit is strong. It is worth the trip. I never connected to a Museum exhibit like that before and I honestly think it will be hard to top that. American Medina is a heart stopping and eye-opening exhibit that shows the powerful impact of Muslim voices in Chicago.

I hope to go again and I 10/10 recommend you go as well. The exhibit runs through May of 2021.



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