Plan your safe visit more

What are the Research Collections?

The Research Collections encompass a broad category of documents, images, publications, and printed materials that are generally available for hands-on use by the public in the Museum’s Research Center (although some access restrictions may apply to portions of these research materials due to condition, privacy concerns, or other constraints).

Research Collections include:

What is the Research Center?

The Chicago History Museum’s Research Center is one of the premier research facilities in Chicago, and it carries on the tradition of serving the public the Chicago Historical Society established with its founding in 1856. The Gilpin Library, which opened as part of the Society’s new building designed by architect Henry Ives Cobb in 1896 at Dearborn and Ontario Streets, provided the public with an up-to-date research facility. The Society moved to its current location in Lincoln Park in 1932 into a building designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White featuring a museum and a library. In the early 2000s, the multiple reading rooms dedicated to specific collections were consolidated into the Research Center. The Archie Motley Reading Room of the Research Center is named in honor of Archibald Motley, who was a staff member from 1955 to 2002 and served legions of researchers as the Museum’s archivist (1974–98). Visitors to the Research Center include authors; educators; independent scholars; photo researchers; members of the press; elementary and secondary school students (especially History Fair students); undergraduate and graduate students, including PhD candidates; architects; building developers; and family and house historians.

Please review the Research Center Information to learn more about the Research Center’s hours, admission fees, policies, and services before planning your research visit. Note that access to certain materials may require an advance notice.

What if I am unable to visit the Research Center in person?

Due to the current shelter in place conditions, this question applies to all of us, including the staff of the Research Center. However, there are a number of services still available:

  • Please explore the Online Research Resources, including the Encyclopedia of Chicago and the image licensing portal.
  • If you require remote research assistance, please contact us at [email protected]. Staff working from home will provide assistance where possible and perhaps suggest additional places to search online or resources that may be available when restrictions are lifted.
  • You may also wish to consider hiring a freelance researcher to conduct research on your behalf.


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