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My Trunk, My Story

Chicago is a city of immigrants. In 1850, 50% of Chicago’s population was born outside of the US, with Irish and Germans making up a bulk of those residents. Many more European immigrants came to Chicago throughout the 1800s and into the 1900s, including Polish, Italians, Jewish, Lithuanians, among others. African Americans also migrated from the South to Chicago, and other northern and west coast cities, starting in the 1910s in well into the 1970s. This became known as the Great Migration. Although Mexican immigrants were making Chicago their home since the early 1900s, a large number of Mexican and other Latin American immigrants made their way to Chicago in the mid-1900s, and continue to arrive and thrive in the city.

All of these immigrants and migrants had to make the tough decision to pack up their trunks, leave their homes, and set out for a new life. With them, they most likely brought personal, cultural, and other important items to remember and honor their previous homes, anchor their new lives with familiar items, and helped to tell their story.

What items do you have, that you would put in your trunk that would help tell your story?

Find directions & start the activity here!


The Chicago History Museum is situated on ancestral homelands of the Potawatomi people, who cared for the land until forced out by non-Native settlers. Established in 1856, the Museum is now at 1601 N. Clark Street in Lincoln Park, its third location. As a major museum and research center for Chicago and U.S. history, the Chicago History Museum strives to be a destination for learning, inspiration and civic engagement. Through dynamic exhibitions, tours, publications, special events and programming, the Museum connects people to Chicago’s history and to each other. To share Chicago stories, the Museum collects and preserves millions of artifacts, documents, images and other items that are relevant to the city’s history. The Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the Chicago Park District on behalf of the people of Chicago. 

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago Stories