Interested in learning something new in 2023? In our latest blog post, CHM director of research and access Ellen Keith reveals the top five most requested collection items at the Abakanowicz Research Center in 2022.
What do people want to see in the Abakanowicz Research Center?
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so we freely confess we were inspired by our colleagues at the Newberry Library when they published The 5 Most-Requested Collection Items of 2022. We keep statistics too, so what were our researchers requesting in 2022? Our list is affected by an atypical year. For the first half of 2022, the bulk of our archival collections were inaccessible as we finished a much-needed storage renovation. You might think that what was most requested were the collections we were able to keep on-site the whole time, but no. Researchers made up for lost time, and two of the collections in the top five were those that had been unavailable earlier.
Front cover of These Are the Families, the 1954 annual report of the Chicago Housing Authority. CHM, ICHi-040474
This 39-box collection was inaccessible until July but is a high-interest collection for urban historians. The Chicago Housing Authority is inextricably tied to Chicago’s history of segregation.
Members of the Mexican Community Committee of South Chicago meeting, Chicago, c. 1960s-70s. CHM, ICHi-174455
We kept this collection on-site during the storage renovation for CHM curator Elena Gonzales to consult as she works toward the Aquí en Chicago exhibition scheduled for 2025. She wasn’t the only one who wanted it, though. We had several other researchers visit, just to see this collection.
The back of a Thing magazine subscription card, c. 1990. Inserted in Thing no. 9, Spring 1993, p. 15, Chicago. CHM, ICHi-177029-002
This collection was processed in 2019, and project archivist Rebekah McFarland composed an illuminating Google Arts and Culture story. As it was so recently available and interest was high, we kept it on-site during the storage renovation, which spanned 2021–22. Chicago Reader reporter Leor Galil visited in 2021 to write a feature on the magazine.
Front cover of a pamphlet titled Building a Better Life in Chicago, published by the Chicago Southern Center, a member of the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago, 1967. CHM, ICHi-075584
This collection weighs in at a staggering 802 boxes, so it had to go off-site during the renovation. Its finding aid shows its members were a variety of agencies, so it has been a popular destination for researchers looking for social service organizations large and small.
A group of protesters rally against the Red Squad at the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St., Chicago, April 19, 1975. ST-14002131-0001, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM
No surprise here. This collection has been the most requested collection for the last ten years, except for 2015, when it came in second to Marshall Field & Company records, with donations from Federated and Target. We knew we had to keep all 205 linear feet of this collection on-site during the renovation. The collection is governed by a court order but can be accessed when researchers follow the protocols.