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Who We Are

Special Exhibit Opening at Dunn Museum January 28

January 18, 2023 12:53 PM

Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad opens Saturday January 28 at the Dunn Museum in Libertyville. The special exhibition, featuring the work of photographer Jeanine Michna-Bales, runs through March 19.

Many consider the Underground Railroad to be the first great freedom movement in the Americas and the first time when people of different races and faiths worked together in harmony for freedom and justice. While many books have been written on the subject, there is very little visual documentation of the Underground Railroad because of its secretive nature.

Michna-Bales spent more than a decade meticulously researching "fugitive" slaves and the ways they escaped to freedom. While the unnumbered routes of the Underground Railroad encompassed countlesssquare miles, the path Michna-Bales documented encompasses about 2,000 miles. It is based on actual sites, cities and places that freedom-seekers passed through during their journey.

Dramatic color photographs, ephemera and narratives together tell the story. From the cotton plantations south of Natchitoches, Louisiana, all the way north to the Canadian border, Michna-Bales’s photographs help us imagine what the long road to freedom may have looked like as seen through the eyes of one of those who made this epic journey.

"This exhibition encourages visitors to learn more, ask questions, and open a dialogue on the subject, and in the end, provide a better understanding of our origins," said Director of Education Nan Buckardt. The exhibition was organized by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Northeastern Illinois was the strongest area of anti-slavery sentiment in the state of Illinois. As early as 1838, residents of Lake County discussed the abolishment of slavery, and in 1846 organized the Lake County Antislavery Society. The county's most dynamic advocate of abolition was Rev. William B. Dodge (1783-1869), pastor of the Milburn Congregational Church. His roots in Salem, Massachusetts, where he worked in education and harbored freedom seekers in his home, set the stage for his leadership role in Lake County.

An array of educational programs and events relating to the exhibition are planned through March. "I'm so proud of all the educational opportunities that the Dunn Museum offers," said Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves, which operates the museum. "Our nationally accredited museum–a distinction held by only 3% of American museums–cares for a treasure trove of history about our region and offers outstanding programs that bring this history to life for people of all ages."

Media contact: Director of Education Nan Buckardt,