Breaking Bread in McLean County Continues to Provide Food for Thought
BLOOMINGTON, IL — A partner program of the McLean County Museum of History (MCMH), BN Welcoming, Design Streak at Illinois State University, and Heartland Community College has received two awards of merit from the Illinois Association of Museums (IAM) and the Association of Midwest Museums (AMM), respectively.
Breaking Bread in McLean County (2021) is a 10-part online program series highlighting the shared and disparate experiences of local im/migrant communities from the Kickapoo Nation to Congolese Americans through stories of food, family, tradition, trauma, and exchange.
“I am most impressed with how different community organizations came together to develop this series. Everyone contributed to the success of this program, but none of it would be possible if not for Hannah Johnson,” says Museum Executive Director, Julie Emig.
In April 2022, the Illinois Association of Museums (IAM) recognized Breaking Bread for Superior Achievement in Community Partnerships at a virtual ceremony via Zoom. IAM shared, "From service awards to lifetime achievement to best practices, the Illinois Association of Museums is proud to celebrate the best in Illinois museums each year. Awards of Distinction recognize achievements and excellence in the museum field. Typically, one institution or individual per category is honored."
In July, Hannah Johnson, former Director of Youth and Family Education at the Museum, attended the Association of Midwest Museums' annual conference in Milwaukee, WI, to receive the exclusive Best Practices 2022 Award on behalf of Breaking Bread and its 20+ contributors.
The American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the accrediting body of the McLean County Museum of History states, "The Best Practices Award recognizes museums and cultural organizations whose innovative projects or community partnerships and collaborations have pushed beyond the status quo and led to the advancement of best museum practices or the establishment of new practices at their institutions in order to better fulfill their missions. Typically, one organization is recognized."
AMM board member Kaman Hillenburg, Collections Manager at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science in Evansville, IN, presented the award to Johnson and shared her affinity for the program series in her introductory remarks as a self-identified first-generation immigrant.
Hillenberg made a special note of her ability to relate to the centrality and universal language of food as a native of Hong Kong, stating that the most common greeting between people in Hong Kong loosely translates to "have you eaten yet?"
Even more rewarding than any accolades, however, is the nearing opportunity for creators and contributors to break bread together in person for the first time following the immense and continued success of this highly personal—and virtual—project. This private Long Table-inspired event for project contributors will take place in September in alliance with the City of Bloomington's Welcoming America initiative and Welcoming Week celebration.
The Long Table is an experimental open public forum that is a hybrid performance, installation roundtable discussion, dinner-party designed to facilitate dialogue.A gathering together of people with common interests developed by the artist and academic Lois Weaver. This Breaking Bread Long Table event will provide partners and participants in this project the opportunity to acknowledge these shared achievements together and enjoy the company of one another—some for the first time.
This year's event is made possible by the McLean County Museum of History, *BN Welcoming, Design Streak at Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, the City of Bloomington, and the generosity of local donors and sponsors. Please note that there is a desire to grow this gathering into a public event in Fall 2023.
For those interested in learning more about the making of Breaking Bread, program facilitators will be presenting on the topic twice this October:
Thursday, October 6, from 10:15-11:45 a.m. at the 24th Annual Conference on Illinois History: https://presidentlincoln.illinois.gov/learn/library-research/research-divisions/conference-on-illinois-history/
Friday, October 14, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. for ISU Senior Professionals: https://seniorprofessionals.illinoisstate.edu/educational-opportunities/morning.php
The entire Breaking Bread series can be viewed on the McLean County Museum of History’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLeoTL4N-ea-TQb1qZ58J2lbArEiV86k5l
*BN Welcoming (a coalition of the Immigration Project, Not In Our Town/Not In Our Schools, West Bloomington Revitalization Project, Mennonite Church of Normal, and First United Methodist Church together creating a supportive environment for immigrants to McLean County)