In words and pictures Perspectives explain how central North America came to be known as a "frontier" and then a "heartland." You can trace the history of the region over 400 years, consider the cultural power of images, or learn how to read historic maps.

Four Centuries

Tens-Kwau-Ta-Waw, the Prophet

Life in central North America, and the way people imagine the region, have changed dramatically over the past 400 years. This essay provides a chronological overview of the region from 1600 to the present.

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Rethinking the Heartland

Milking time at the Rader farm, Knoxville, Illinois

Re-imagine the history of central North America through six themes that highlight different approaches to the past and present.

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Two Visions of the Frontier

An American Log-House

The historian's West was one of free land and the peaceful settlement of an empty continent.  The showman's West was one of of bloody battles for domination.  Both imagined the creation of a unique American identity.

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The World of the Dill Pickle Club

Dill Pickle Club House and Chapel

In the Dill Pickle Scrapbooks we find fragments of the social, artistic, and intellectual ferment that churned in the cities of the industrialized world during the first decades of the 20th century. The nightclub invited patrons to "Step high, stoop low;  Leave your dignity outside."

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Making Sense of Historic Maps

Carte des cinq Grands Lacs du Canada

Maps tell us much more than how to get from here to there.  Historians use maps as evidence of the ways people in the past imagined the lands they lived in, dreamed of, and fought over.

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