A Brief Guide to Archives in Chicago
Karen Christianson, November 2011
Author's Note: For those combining the annual meeting with a research trip, Chicago offers a wide range of historical archives for scholars of many periods. From large institutions to small specialized gems, the city's archival repositories have a surprising breadth and depth. Below is a list of some of the city's offerings. Unless otherwise indicated, all the street addresses are for locations in Chicago.
Specialized and Independent Research Libraries and Archives
Art Institute of Chicago Ryerson and Burnham Libraries (111 S. Michigan Ave. 312-443-3666 ). The Ryerson and Burnham Libraries constitute a major art and architecture research collection. All periods and media are covered, with special emphasis on architecture of the 18th through 20th centuries and 19th-century painting, prints, drawings, and decorative arts. Special collections include the Percier and Fontaine Collection of 17th- to 19th-century architectural books, the Mary Reynolds Collection on Dada and Surrealism, the George R. Collins Archive of Catalan Art and Architecture, and the Mrs. James Ward Thorne Collection of illustrated books. Open to all museum visitors on Thursdays from 10:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. and on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
Chicago Film Archives (329 W. 18th St., Ste. 3A. 312-243-1808). A regional film archive that collects, preserves, and provides access to films that represent the Midwest. The collections include professional and amateur films, as well as those often-neglected cultural gems, home movies. Call for access information.
Chicago History Museum (1601 N. Clark St. 312-642-4600 ). The Chicago History Museum's research center holds a comprehensive body of published and unpublished materials on Chicago. Archives and manuscripts strengths include records relating to social service organizations, civil rights and civil liberties, reform politics, and organized labor. The WFMT/Studs Terkel Audio Archive includes more than 7,000 hours of sound recordings. Open to the public; researchers must register and pay a small fee.
Evanston History Center (225 Greenwood Street, Evanston, IL; 847-475-3410) Located in the historic Charles Gates Dawes House, built in 1894 on a two-acre lakefront site, this archives specializes in Evanston history and Evanston authors.
Gerber/Hart Library and Archives (1127 West Granville Ave.; 773-381-8030) Gerber/Hart is the Midwest’s largest LGBT circulating library and has over 100 archival collections containing the records of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals and organizations, and other resources bearing upon their lives and experiences in American society.
Vivian Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature (9525 S. Halsted St. 312-745-2080). Housed in the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, the Harsh Collection is the largest African American history and literature collection in the Midwest. It contains a wealth of documentation of the black experience, with a strong focus on African American history in Illinois. Free and open to the public.
The Newberry Library (60 W. Walton St. 312-255-3666). The Newberry's collection embraces history and the humanities in Europe and the Americas, from the late Middle Ages to the early 20th century. Areas of collecting strength include the Renaissance; European history and literature; American history and literature; the history and culture of Chicago and the Midwest; printing, calligraphy, and book arts; the colonization of the Americas and contact with American Indians and Indigenous populations; maps, travel, and exploration; and the westward movement. Free and open to the public.
Oriental Institute (1155 E. 58th St. 773-702-9537). The research archives of the Oriental Institute span the history of the ancient Near East from prehistoric times through the late antique period, including important collections on archaeology, Assyriology, Demotic and Greek papyrology, Elamology, Egyptology, Syro-Mesopotamian studies, and Syro-Palestinian studies. Researchers must become members of the institute to use the archives and should call ahead.
Pritzker Military Library (104 S. Michigan Ave. 312-374-9333). The collection of the Pritzker Military Library includes over 30,000 books, periodicals, videos, artwork, posters, and rare military ephemera; over 6,000 photographs and glass negatives from the American Civil War and Spanish-American War through the present day; and a sizable collection related to Winston Churchill. Archive and manuscript collection highlights include personal recollections of veterans and the papers of military historian Edward Jablonski (1922–2004). Open to the public; admission $5.
Harold Washington Library Special Collections Center (400 S. State St. 312-747-4300. ). The Special Collections and Preservation Division collects, preserves, and provides access to rare and unique materials at the Chicago Public Library. The focus is on Chicago; Civil War materials, rare books, and art round out the collections. Free and open to the public.
Frances Willard Memorial Library and Archives (1730 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL. 847-328-7500). This library and archives holds Frances Willard's personal papers, along with records of and publications pertaining to world, national, state, and local Woman's Christian Temperance Unions. Open by appointment only.
College and University Archives and Special Collections
Columbia College Chicago Archives (624 S. Michigan Ave. 312-369-7900. ). Manuscripts include the John Fischetti collection, the Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement collection, and the Archie Lieberman collection.
DePaul University Special Collections and Archives (Richardson Library, Room 314, 2350 N. Kenmore Ave. 773-325-7864). DePaul's research strengths include the history of urban renewal in Lincoln Park; women's community organizations against domestic violence; Catholic social justice; Victorian illustrated books; Napoleon; St. Vincent de Paul; and the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians). Free and open to the public.
Loyola University Chicago Archives and Special Collections (Cudahy Library, Room 218, 1032 W. Sheridan Rd. 773-508-2661). These collections have more than 11,400 rare books, including the Jesuitica collection. They are strongest in the areas of philosophy; religion; history and geography; and language and literature. The manuscript collections include the personal papers of faculty and alumni in addition to the personal papers and records of individuals and organizations from outside Loyola. Free and open to the public; appointments are required to use any of the collections.
National-Louis University Archives and Special Collections (122 S. Michigan Ave., 6th Floor. 312-261-3376). The collections focus on the history of National-Louis University, the history of the kindergarten movement, education reform in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries, and NLU's involvement in these historical developments.
Northwestern University Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections (Deering Library, Level 3, 1970 Campus Dr., Evanston, IL. 847-491-3635). The McCormick Library houses more than 235,000 of Northwestern University Library's most unusual and outstanding items and collections, ranging from four-thousand-year-old Mesopotamian clay tablets to 19th-century cobweb paintings to the most recent issues of feminist journals from around the world. Formats collected include rare books and periodicals; manuscripts and archives; sound recordings; photographs; video/film; posters and prints; and realia. Free and open to the public.
Roosevelt University Archives (430 S. Michigan Ave. 312-341-2280). Roosevelt's archives consist of four main collections: the Auditorium Theatre collection, with materials relating to the historic Auditorium Theatre building, performers and performances, and administrative files; the records of the Chicago Musical College, founded in 1867 by Florenz Zigfield, Sr.; the archival collections of the Center for New Deal Studies, and records of the university and its people. Free and open to the public.
University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center (1100 E. 57th St. 773-702-8705). The rare book holdings of the Special Collections Research Center, which total approximately 265,000 volumes, consist of the general rare book collection and a number of separately named collections; for example, the Ludwig Rosenberger Library of Judaica; the John Crerar Collection of Rare Books in the History of Science and Medicine; the Helen and Ruth Regenstein Collection of Rare Books; and the Encyclopaedia Britannica Collection of Literature for Children. Researchers not affiliated with the university may obtain a day pass and register to use special collections. Contact the center before a visit to determine the availability of the materials: www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/ask/SCRC.html.
University of Illinois at Chicago Special Collections and University Archives (801 S. Morgan St., Room 3-330. 312-996-2742). The Special Collections Department at the Richard J. Daley library houses rare books, manuscripts, maps, and photographs, with particular strength in the social, political, and cultural history of Chicago. The University Archives also contains selected papers of prominent faculty, alumni, and administrative staff. Free and open to the public; making an appointment in advance is encouraged.
Archdiocese of Chicago Archives and Records(711 W. Monroe St. 312-534-4400). The official repository for the records of the Archdiocese of Chicago, especially from the 20th century. Open to the public; appointments are strongly encouraged.
Chicago Theological Seminary Library (5757 S. University Ave. 773-322-0225). Significant collections include the Lowenbach Congregational and United Church of Christ Collection; the Anton T. Boisen Collection; the Campbell Morgan Collection; and Congregational church records and CTS institutional archives. By appointment only.
JKM Library (1100 E. 55th St. 773-256-0739). The JKM Library represents a merger of the collections of the McCormick Theological Seminary, Lane Theological Seminary, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Significant rare books collections include materials pertaining to biblical archeology, Egyptian papyri, manuscript codices from the 10th through the 13th centuries, early printed materials, Luther manuscript letters and printed works, Swedish and German hymnals, several original editions of Luther's German Bible and many 16th-century treatises and pamphlets. Scholars may make arrangements to use these collections with Ralph Klein, LSTC Rare Books Curator, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The United Library Special Collections (2121 Sheridan Rd., Evanston, IL. 877-600-8753). Established through a merger of the libraries of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Special collections include the Hibbard Rare Book Collection in Egyptology, Semitic Languages, and Near Eastern Archaeology; the Keen Bible Collection; and the Methodist Special Collection, containing materials on Methodism from the 18th century to the present. By appointment only, on weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
National Archives Great Lakes Region(7358 S. Pulaski Rd. 773-948-9001). This branch of the National Archives preserves and make available documents created by federal agencies in the Great Lakes region. The facility has extensive microfilm holdings, as well as more than 80,000 cubic feet of historical records from 1800 to the 1980s. Subjects of local interest include the Great Lakes and inland waterways; Native Americans; the environment; immigration and naturalization; inventions and technology; railroads; the automotive industry; and domestic conditions during World Wars I and II.
Illinois Regional Archives Depository (NEIU Ronald Williams Library, 5500 N. St. Louis Ave. 773-442-4506). The Illinois Regional Archives Depository at Northeastern Illinois University is a repository of selected governmental records for Chicago and Cook County from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. It is administered by the Illinois State Archives.
Karen Christianson, acting director of the Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies, is a member of the Local Arrangements Committee for the 126th annual meeting of the AHA.