Exhibit: Memories in Bloom: Exploring Chicago’s Proms

Exhibit Memories in Bloom: Exploring Chicago's Proms is open in the 3rd floor Gallery in the Harold Washington Library Center until September. The exhibit features chosen images from CPL's Archives and Special Collections Division, community organizations in Chicago and library staff members.

Senior proms are often seen as a celebration of the end of high school, but they can also provide insight into serious social issues, such as racial discrimination, LGBTQ+ rights, body positivity, disability inclusion, economic disparities, and even the impact of a pandemic.

Proms reflect fashion trends and give glimpses into cultural values. The way people dress, style their hair, and accessorize at prom changes over time, showing how fashion evolves. One’s prom outfit not only expresses personal style and uniqueness but also represents wider influences on body image, gender expression, and cultural tradition.

By exploring the history of prom, we can understand how traditions and social norms have changed. From their origins as formal debutante balls, proms are steadfastly evolving with each generation to reflect modern attitudes and cultural diversity.

A prom is more than a farewell to high school, it’s also a way to document and remember the past. Memories in Bloom: Exploring Chicago's Proms, hopes to capture some of these historic perspectives.