When I was growing up in Missouri, I didn’t pay much attention to events in Illinois, despite its proximity. I had a set of cousins over there, and our local TV station (based in Cape Girardeau) always covered Illinois news and weather, but other than those offhand connections I remained mainly unaware of the state’s history and events.
Now comes The American Bottom project, an interdisciplinary effort from academics and artists that provides an interactive map, historical and cultural commentary, and location guides to dozens and dozens of sites of interest, from Cahokia Mounds to Sauget and everything in between (culturally) and stretching geographically from Alton in the north to Kaskaskia in the south. The main participants in the project appear to be Washington University and The Art of the Rural, which is an interesting organization I follow on Facebook.
The interactive map looks to be still a-tweak, a little; I can’t always get the legends to show up on mouse-over in my browser, although the links all work, as far as I’ve gotten, anyway. Each link is a great bit of cultural history and I’ve already learned a lot. The East Side has been the overlooked side of the St. Louis metropolitan region for as long as there has been a St. Louis metropolitan region; its history is fascinating and troubling in roughly equal amounts. And in that mixture, I suppose, it reflects the American experience better than some of the sanitized, triumphalist histories we are accustomed to hearing.