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Chicago History Museum Awarded $2.5 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Mar 12 2021

The Chicago History Museum has received a $2.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative. The grant will support the museum in establishing a new permanent role, Curator of Religious Community History, and the Fellowship for Religious Collections, a program for early career archivists in religious history collections. The museum is one of 18 organizations from across the United States that received grants through this initiative.

“The Chicago History Museum is honored to receive this award from Lilly Endowment Inc. to deepen our mission of sharing Chicago stories,” said Gary T. Johnson, president of the Chicago History Museum. “It is imperative that we create a more balanced understanding around religion and its significant history in Chicago and the U.S.  through exhibitions and public programs. We are thrilled to begin the search for our new position, Curator of Religious Community History, and open the Fellowship for Religious Collections opportunity.”

The Chicago History Museum has delved into religious faiths and communities in past exhibitions. They included Catholic Chicago, which brought to light nearly two centuries of Chicago’s rich Catholic history, and Shalom Chicago, which traced the history of Chicago’s Jewish community through personal stories and artifacts dating back to the 1840s. American Medina: Stories of Muslim Chicago, open now through May 2021, explores themes of journey, identity and faith from the perspectives of Muslim Chicagoans.

Lilly Endowment awarded grants totaling more than $43 million through the initiative.  These grants will enable the organizations to develop exhibitions and education programs that fairly and accurately portray the role of religion in the U.S. and around the world. The initiative is designed to foster public understanding about religion and lift up the contributions that people of all faiths and diverse religious communities make to our greater civic well-being.

“Museums and cultural institutions are trusted organizations and play an important role in teaching the American public about the world around them,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion.  “These organizations will use the grants to help visitors understand and appreciate the significant impact religion has had and continues to have on society in the United States and around the globe.  Our hope is that these efforts will promote greater knowledge about and respect for people of diverse religious traditions.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative in 2019 and awarded planning grants to organizations to help them explore how programming in religion could further their institutional missions. These grants will assist organizations in implementing projects that draw on their extensive collections and enhance and complement their current activities.

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