Explore Chicago Collections

New resources are surprise gifts. Unexpected. Welcome. Promising. There is a new resource for Chicago and Chicago-area historical and cultural research. What promise!

chicago sculptureAre you researching to gain historical context? Perhaps a Chicago neighborhood or a neighboring community is of interest, or documents of early labor unions are what you seek. Photographs from institutions such as schools and orphanages might lead to a discovery or greater understanding for those with an interest.

How does a researcher locate potentially scattered yet relevant archival collections on a specific Chicago history topic?

ArchiveGrid guides us to a world of archival collections. But what if you dreamed of something regional in nature, perhaps a one-stop portal to archival resources held in a variety of Chicago-area repositories? Can I interest you in an online guide to Chicago collections that are accessed in person, but include the immediate gift of a variety of digitized images?

Chicago researchers and historians have a new resource offering those things. Explore Chicago Collections is a great place to jump into the world of Chicago-area archival collections. Explore Chicago Collections will lead the researcher to letters, maps, photographs, and a variety of documents and artifacts.

The portal includes information on Chicago collections held in a number of institutions, including the Alliance Française, Art Institute, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Public Library, Chicago State University, Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Lake Forest College, Loyola University Chicago, Newberry Library, Northwestern University, Roosevelt University, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Theatre Historical Society of America, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago.

Explore Chicago Collections describes their site as “The place to discover the history and culture of Chicago.”

Let’s take a peek.

Topics tabs include Events, Government, Daily Life, Creativity, Environment, and Work. Explore digital images and archival collections on neighborhoods, cities, and names (people). Daily Life and Identity has a genealogy category with 108 items.

Items and areas I browsed included medical school graduation photographs, digitized wage maps, and the Labor Relations, Population Change and Movement, and Family & Home Life sections. The site has search and browse features.

Archival collections that caught my eye (and require in-person research) included the Bureau of Indian Affairs Relocation Records, 1936-1975; Immigrants’ Protective League Records, 1919-1967; and Angel Guardian Orphanage Photographs, ca 1940-1970. A 1905 census of 284 Back of the Yards households might be of special interest those who had family there.

Enjoy the promise of this wonderful new resource. I hope that it helps you to make many discoveries.

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