Local Archives

The city of Chicago is an excellent resource for history students. A good place to begin is "A Brief Guide to Archives in Chicago" by Karen Christianson, which was published in Perspectives on History, the newsmagazine of the American Historical Association. Below are highlights of some of the most-used archives and links to archives that appeared after Christianson's 2011 article: 

  • The Special Collections Research Center is the principal repository for and steward of the University of Chicago’s rare books, manuscripts, University Archives, and the Chicago Jazz Archives. 

  • The Art Institute of Chicago's Ryerson and Burnham Libraries houses 500,000 print titles, 100,000 auction catalogs, 1,200 current serial subscriptions, and extensive digital collections. Approximately 10,000 volumes are added annually. 

  • The Black Metropolis Research Consortium is a Chicago-based association of libraries, universities, and other archival institutions; its mission is to make accessible its members' holdings that document African American and African diasporic culture, history, and politics, with a specific focus on materials relating to Chicago. 

  • The Chicago History Museum holds a collection of over 22 million artifacts and documents and is a rich resource for the study of the history of Chicago. 

  • The Chicago Public Library has an archival collections and a Chicago history collection

  • The DuSable Museum of African American History collects, preserves, and displays artifacts and objects that illustrate African American history, culture, and art. 

  • The National Archives at Chicago has more than 140,000 cubic feet of historical records from 1800 to the 1990s, including textual records and non-textual records such as maps and photographs from Federal courts and some 85 Federal agencies. 

  • The Newberry Library has an extensive non-circulating collection of rare books, maps, music, and manuscripts spanning six centuries. 

  • Northwestern University's Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections houses more than 235,000 items, ranging from four thousand year old Mesopotamian clay tablets to nineteenth-century cobweb paintings to the most recent issues of feminist journals from around the world. 

  • The Pritzker Military Library, dedicated to the story of the citizen-soldier in American history, contains over 50,000 volumes, 3,000 rare books, and a growing assortment of unit histories, such as Civil War regimentals and cruise books. 

  • Rebuild Foundation Archive, housed in the Stoney Island Arts Bank, contains the Johnson Publishing Archive and Collection, the University of Chicago's Glass Lantern Slides, the Edward J. Williams Collection, and the Frankie Knuckles house-music collection. 

  • The Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Illinois at Chicago houses rare books, manuscripts, maps and photographs, with particular strength in the social, political, and cultural history of Chicago. The collections at the Library of the Health Sciences - Chicago document Chicago's rich history as a center for the education and practice of the medical arts. 

Students who are interested in engaging with the city of Chicago through their research are also encouraged to reach out to Chicago Studies, which has extensive contacts and funding to support undergraduate work in our city.