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Chicago History Museum Acquires Extensive Collection of Chicago Sun-Times Photographs


Chicago History Museum Acquires Extensive Collection of Chicago Sun-Times Photographs

Over 5 Million Photographs to be Preserved and Made Available to the Public; Highlights to be Featured in Upcoming Exhibition

The Chicago History Museum last year acquired a Chicago Sun-Times photography collection of over 5 million images spanning over 75 years of Chicago history. The collection consists primarily of 35-millimeter negatives documenting events as early as the 1940s through the 2000s. To ensure long-term preservation and access, the Museum worked closely with the Sun-Times to acquire the collection, which was being sold by private collectors. This acquisition gives the public access to an impressive cache of never-before-seen images for use and research in the coming years. To further celebrate this important acquisition, approximately 150 images will be on display at the Museum in an upcoming exhibition, “Millions of Moments: The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Collection.”

“The Chicago History Museum is committed to sharing Chicago’s stories, and we are thrilled to have worked with the Sun-Times to acquire and preserve this vast collection of photos,” said Gary T. Johnson, president of the Chicago History Museum. “The collection complements the Museum’s rich photojournalism archives, and we look forward to making these resources available to the public.”

The acquired photographs document monumental events and everyday occurrences of life in urban America, many of which were never published. In addition to preserving and inventorying the images, the Museum will digitize and make accessible a substantial portion of the collection over the next several years. Select images will be released online as work is completed. An initial batch of 1,000 images is available now on the Museum’s image portal.

Highlights from the collection include:

  • Racial relations and strife, including school busing, segregated housing, Black Panther activities, and notable civil rights leaders in Chicago such as Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Dick Gregory and Jesse Jackson
  • Chicago and national politics, including activities of mayors Richard J. Daley, Richard M. Daley, Harold Washington and Jane Byrne, party conventions and presidential visits
  • Sporting events, including Chicago’s professional teams, university sports, high school athletics and Special Olympics
  • Built environment, including south and west side neighborhood scenes, iconic architecture and public housing The Sun-Times collection features the work of several award-winning photographers, including Pulitzer Prize winners Jack Dykinga (1971) and John H. White (1982), and Bob Black, winner of the 1984 World Press Photo award in the Daily Life, Singles category. Others rose to prominence after working for the Sun-Times: Pete Souza became the Chief Official White House Photographer for Ronald Reagan (1981-89) and Barack Obama (2009-17), and Pablo Martínez Monsiváis won a Pulitzer Prize (1999) as an Associated Press photographer.

The Chicago History Museum received a lead gift from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation to process the Chicago Sun-Times collection. This challenge grant is matching donations from organizations and individuals in support of the project, including a generous contribution from Bon and Holly French. Fundraising is ongoing to bring this massive body of Chicago images to the public.


The Chicago History Museum is situated on ancestral homelands of the Potawatomi people, who cared for the land until forced out by non-Native settlers. Established in 1856, the Museum is now at 1601 N. Clark Street in Lincoln Park, its third location. As a major museum and research center for Chicago and U.S. history, the Chicago History Museum strives to be a destination for learning, inspiration and civic engagement. Through dynamic exhibitions, tours, publications, special events and programming, the Museum connects people to Chicago’s history and to each other. To share Chicago stories, the Museum collects and preserves millions of artifacts, documents, images and other items that are relevant to the city’s history. The Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the Chicago Park District on behalf of the people of Chicago. 

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago Stories