By Jim Williams

CHICAGO (CBS) — It may seem like an easy question: What is the Midwest?

CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports a new exhibit in Chicago shows the answers are complex.

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Graphic artist Shelley Howard is a native Chicagoan. A man about town who explores big city pleasures. But his identification extends beyond Chicago.

When asked if he was a Midwestern in temperament, in values and in attitudes, his answer was affirmative.

“I would have to say 100%,” said Howard.

Values, history, growth of America’s middle, explored at the Newberry Library.

The question is: ‘What is the Midwest?'” asked the Newberry’s Alice Schreyer.

For starters, it’s from Ohio to the Dakotas to Kansas. Schreyer said the exhibit aims to shatter stereotypes about the 12 states, often dismissively called “flyover country.”

“Diverse ethnically. Religions, communities and I think homogeneity is not something that I would associate with the Midwest,” said Schreyer.

From the Midwest’s Native American origins…

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“This is a fairly dark chapter,” Schreyer said.

The movement of European immigrants East to West.

“They saw opportunities, economic opportunities,” she added.

To the Great Migration of African Americans from the South.

“We have the Pullman records,” noted Schreyer.

In a short time, the population exploded.

Take two states: Nebraska’s population in 1860 was 29,000. By 1960 it had jumped to 1.4 million. Indiana had a population of 2,600 in 1800. By 1900, it had swelled to 2.5 million.

Today, the Midwest’s population is 65 million. People living in rural communities and in America’s third largest city.

“Beneath the heart of every tough guy, of every urban sophisticate in this city, you have the heart of Midwesterner,” Howard said.

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“What is the Midwest?” begins Friday at the Newberry Library and runs thru December 31 and it’s free to the public.