Immigrants the Focus of MCHS Exhibits and Presentation

The Madison County Historical Society (MCHS) will offer two new exhibits and a companion program beginning May 7 and May 10. “Migration and Health in National and Global History,” will be presented Sunday, May 7, at 2 p.m. at the Main Street Community Center at 1003 N. Main Street in Edwardsville.

The speaker, Kathleen Vongsathorn, is an Associate Professor of History at SIUE where she teaches the history of health, disease and science. The program was created to showcase the two exhibits to follow on May 10.

Madison County has a long history of immigrants and migration. The exhibits and presentation look at some of the difficulties experienced by new arrivals. Unfortunately, in matters of health, misconceptions can create racial schisms that are often undeserved. Immigration has affected Americans since its earliest times when Europeans brought disease with devastating results for the Native American population.

Vongsathon will describe other times when migration and health made a difference.

“Outside/Inside: Immigration, Migration, and Health Care in the United States,” an exhibition from the National Institute of Health, uses a combination of documents and images to explore the history of immigrant health and the experiences of many immigrants and migrants with the US healthcare system since the late 1800s. Health care played a role in inclusion and exclusion, in “assimilation” and discrimination, in dividing communities and in strengthening them. MCHS was one of 19 universities and public libraries approved as a recipient of this National Institute of Health/National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM) traveling exhibition.

Noted historian and Northern Illinois University educator, Beatrix Hoffman, PhD, guest curated the traveling exhibit produced by the National Institute of Health and the National Library of Medicine. The exhibition and a companion website were produced by the National Library of Medicine.

The second exhibit, created by MCHS museum curator Jenn Vanbibber, is a companion piece entitled “Roadways and Roadblocks,” telling the story of immigrants searching for a route towards naturalization, the process by which foreign-born residents can become U. S. citizens. The exhibit will include some of the materials collected recently during “History Harvest” events held to collect information for a coming permanent exhibit on immigration to Madison County. The information in “Roadways and Roadblocks” will be more closely related to Madison County rather than the national perspective presented by the NIH/NLM materials.

For the first time in seven years, the exhibits will be in the Society’s “Weir House” museum building at 715 N. Main Street in Edwardsville, Illinois. Although renovations are not yet complete for the entire building, exhibit spaces on the first floor will be ready. The exhibits will be here May 10- June 17 with hours Wed.-Fri and Sun. 1-4 p.m.

Both of the exhibits and the presentation will be free and open to the public. The Madison County Historical Society is a 501(c)3 charitable organization that owns and operates the Madison County History Museum and Archival Library at 715-801 N. Main Street in Edwardsville, Illinois. The library has regular hours Wednesday-Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 – 4 p.m. For additional information call either the library at 618-656-7569 or the society at 618-656-1294. The Society’s website can be found at