Prints and Photographs

The Museum’s collection contains more than 6.5 million images. It is the single largest source of pictorial information for the Chicago metropolitan area from the early nineteenth century to the present that reflects the creativity of the city’s artists, photographers, printmakers, video and filmmakers, and other members of the visual arts community.

It also includes an extensive collection of photographic, print, and broadside images related to American history before 1870. The collection encompasses prints, including etchings, engravings, and lithographs; photographs, including cabinet cards, cartes de visite, cased images, stereocards, paper prints, and negatives; broadsides; posters; postcards; greeting cards; and moving image film and video.

Some of the most frequently requested Prints and Photographs materials include:

  • Hedrich Blessing architectural photography, 1928–80
  • Works by prominent Chicago photographers, including Rus Arnold, Gordon Coster, Stephen Deutch, Arthur Siegel, and Nathan Lerner
  • Architectural photographs by professional photographers, including J. W. Taylor, W. T. Barnum, Barnes-Crosby, Clarence John Laughlin, Kaufmann & Fabry, and Raymond Trowbridge
  • Photographs of neighborhoods and buildings from the Chicagoland-in-Pictures project affiliated with the Chicago Area Camera Clubs Association (CACCA), 1948–2005
  • Engravings and lithographs by Currier and Ives, Raoul Varin, Kurz and Allison, and Edwin Whitefield
  • Original cartoons by John McCutcheon
  • Archive for the photographic documentation project Changing Chicago, 1988–89
  • Photographs of labor unions, including the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Chicago Federation of Labor
  • Collections of social welfare agencies, including settlement houses (Association House, Chicago Commons, Gads Hill Center), Infant Welfare Society, Jewish Community Centers, United Charities, Visiting Nurse Association, and the YMCA
  • Claude A. Barnett and the Associated Negro Press photographic materials, 1890–1969
  • Photographs and prints related to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and 1933–34 A Century of Progress International Exposition
  • Chicago Daily News newspaper photo morgue, 1901–70
  • Burr Tillstrom Collection of Kukla, Fran and Ollie films 

Research Inquiries and Collection Access 

Researching Prints and Photographs

The majority of the Prints and Photographs materials are available to the public for research through the Abakanowicz Research Center (ARC) Please note that advance notice is required for access to color photographs and negatives and transparencies. Only a limited portion of moving images have been transferred to readily accessible reference copies. Advance arrangements must be made to order a reference copy for use in the Abakanowicz Research Center.

The holdings listed above represent only a fraction of the Prints and Photographs collection. To search for additional holdings, consult ARCHIE, the Research Center’s online catalog. To learn more about how to arrange a research visit, see the ARC page. 

Rights and Reproductions Requests

Images do not exist for all of the items in the Prints and Photographs holdings. Requests for new photography may occasionally be accommodated for an additional fee; however, the Museum reserves the right to limit new photography based on an item’s condition, storage location, size, and other factors. For information about obtaining copies or high-quality digital image reproductions of collection materials, see the Rights and Reproductions page. Note that the Museum’s ability to reproduce requested materials may be limited by US copyright law.

Donate to the Collection

The vast majority of our Prints and Photographs holdings were donated to the Museum. If you would like to donate prints, photographs, film, and/or video materials, please fill out and submit the Online Collection Donation Form.

Support the Collection

The Museum requires ongoing resources to maintain its collections of more than 23 million objects and documents. This work includes cataloging, storing, and preserving collection materials – and the specialized activity necessary to make this unique resource available for use in exhibitions, publications, public programs, scholarly research, and loans to other institutions. We encourage you to consider making a financial contribution to help support this important work.

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