Claude Walker | Bicentennial-By-Buttons

FAQs about “Bicentennial-by-Button: 200 Years of Trailblazers, Rascals & Felons”

What is the “Bicentennial-by-Button” project?

“Bicentennial-by-Button: 200 Years of Trailblazers, Rascals & Felons” is a free online exhibit which aims to tell the story of Illinois through campaign buttons and essays (www.illinoisbicentennial.org). Launched on August 26 (Illinois Constitution Day), our Bicentennial runs until December 3 (Statehood Day). 

What exactly can visitors see in the “exhibit”?

Bicentennial-by-Button features images of 1,600+ campaign buttons accompanied by essays about our history by Illinois writer Claude Walker, who says, “Let’s Play Two (Hundred)!” Arranged into 31 virtual “galleries”, our colorful past is celebrated through the stories of trailblazing candidates and causes, pols who got busted, and curiosities such as Paul Powell’s cash-collection bag and a JB Pritzker campaign poster…from 1998! 

What sort of “galleries”?

Visitors can learn about Illinoisans who sought the White House and our Governors who went to the Big House. The “Trailblazers Wing” honors Illinois women, LGBT, African-American, Latinx and Asian American pioneers. Visitors can view the buttons of such barrier-breakers as Ralph Metcalfe, Cha-Cha Jimenez, Ron Sable, Joanne Alter, Jane Byrne, Harold Washington, Judy Baar Topinka, Sandra Otaka and others. “Sidebar” galleries spotlight moments or eras in Illinois: “Adlai & the LaRouchies”, “Council Wars”, “Daley Dynasty”, Century of Progress). The “Land of Linkin’ Rooms” show our linkage through events, road-trips, sports. 

What’s the concept?

Each button has a story behind it, someone’s dreams or aspirations. The cause or campaign ends, but the button lives on. The story of Illinois is the story of millions of people as told by these little wearable works-of-art. 

Is this part of the State’s official Bicentennial stuff?

“Bicentennial-by-Button” is not affiliated with nor sanctioned by official Illinois Bicentennial. It is just one Illinoisan’s way of celebrating a milestone 200th birthday (while cleaning out his old button collection). Plus being “unaffiliated” enables the “virtual curator” to engage in unfettered hyperbole, snark and retribution. 

Who’s behind “Bicentennial-by-Button”?

The “virtual curator” is lifelong Illinoisan Claude Walker, a button collector, political activist and author. An advisor to a Governor, U.S. Senator and Chicago Alderman, Walker has been active in 80 Illinois campaigns and causes. A button collector since 1960 (“Nixon-Lodge”), he’s amassed a 4,000-item collection and is a member of the Chicago-Area Political Items Collectors. Walker has written thousands of press releases and eight novels, including his 2015 Drone Dogs (set in a future Chicago) and is a member of the Society of Midland Authors. 

How can I view “Bicentennial-by-Button”?

The free online exhibit is at www.illinoisbicentennial.org (parked on Walker’s website: www.claudiowalker.com.)  In addition to Walker’s collection, another 100 button images are courtesy of the Busy Beaver Museum https://www.buttonmuseum.org/.

 

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