Chicago Metro History Day

Start your research journey here!

Doing research is a key activity of the History Day. The sources found will help build knowledge, provide the images, text, and audio-visual evidence to develop an argument, and make the final project come alive. For general research support, including help finding quality online sources like books, newspapers, journal articles, etc., our partners at the NEIU Libraries are available to meet for 1-on-1 virtual Research Consultations and have even produced a video series about doing online research just for History Day students!

Every History Day project must have an annotated bibliography that is based on the research completed, so take good notes and record all the citation information while doing research.  Any time you find something useful in a source, take careful notes including the author, URL, date, and what you learned from the source. This will help you put together your bibliography and avoid plagiarism.

If you are just getting started, be sure to start on our Students page and check out the Five Steps for a Successful History Day project.

Resource Directory

Chicago Public Library

This video and this blog post will introduce you to everything CPL has to offer for History Day students.
Search the catalog for books, or browse Chicago History for guides to special collections, helpful timelines, and primary sources. The History Day/Fair page gathers gathers a selection of outstanding resources. Many require a library card or CPL eCard, available free to all Chicago residents.


More Chicago Public Library Resources

Chicago Public Library Digital Archival Collections
The Chicago Public Library digital archival collections cover a wide array of topics including the Civil War, Chicago theater, Northside Neighborhoods, Harold Washington, the sensational newspaper Chicago Examiner, and the Chicago Renaissance.

Chicago Public Library Special Collections
The Special Collections and Preservation Division, on the 9th floor of the Harold Washington Library Center, showcases rare and unique materials focusing on Chicago as well as the Civil War.

Harold Washington Library Center Departmental Contact Information

Chicago/Illinois Portals and Digital Collections

Find collections at institutions such as universities, archives, and the Chicago History Museum that focus on Illinois state and Chicago history.


Explore Chicago/Illinois Portals and Collections

Chicago in Maps
Chicago in Maps contains various important historic and thematic maps of Chicago.

Chicago History Museum Research Center
The Chicago History Museum’s research collections are available for researchers, including History Day students. The Research Center’s History Day LibGuide lists CHM digital collections (such as Haymarket Affair, Lincoln, and the Chicago Fire), and also provides the search engine for the Research Center’s primary and secondary sources.
Check out the CMHD Video Guide to this resource!

Chicago History Museum – Other Resources

Chicago Public Library Digital Archival Collections
The Chicago Public Library digital archival collections cover a wide array of topics including the Civil War, Chicago theater, Northside Neighborhoods, Harold Washington, the sensational newspaper The Examiner, and the Chicago Renaissance.

Chicago State University Archives & Special Collections
Chicago State University’s Archives and Special Collections digital collection includes manuscripts and images that reflect the historical, literary, and academic traditions of Chicago State University and the south side community of Chicago. Of note are Historical Photographs, The Progressive Education Collection, and The Last Days of Maxwell Street.

DePaul University Special Collections 
The DePaul Digital Library is composed of digitized books, manuscripts, images, maps and other materials. Of particular interest to History Day students will be the Community Collections (including materials pertaining to the Young Lords and Lincoln Park) and the Selected Maps Collection.

Digital Library of Illinois and Chicago History
Digital copies of older history books and other printed material on Illinois and Chicago.  There is a special feature on defunct amusement parks throughout the state too.

Explore Chicago Collections
An excellent portal to many of the special collections’ holdings that can be found in the city.

Illinois Digital Heritage Hub
The Illinois Digital Heritage Hub is the newest hub on the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). The collection is a collaboration between the Illinois State Library, the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI), Chicago Public Library, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The hub brings the stories and voices of Illinois residents and helps DPLA draw unique connections between broad national themes in American history and the lived experience of individuals and local communities.

Illinois Digital Archives
Digitized the collections from the Illinois State Historical Library and other libraries and historical societies from around the state.

Illinois State Archives
From Pre-Fire Chicago to Abraham Lincoln to World War 2 documents, the archive provides under-used primary sources with accompanying background information..

Loyola University Chicago Digital Special Collections
The Loyola University Chicago Digital Special Collections includes materials about the history of Chicago, as well as those unique to the history of Loyola and its religious affiliates. History Day students may be interested in viewing the Chicago Images, Columbian Exposition, Century of Progress collections.

Newberry Library Chicago History Research Links: Chicago and the Midwest
The local history department compiled this list of key research websites.

Newberry Library Digital Collections for the Classroom
Primary-source documents and essays by scholars that are arranged by topics (many based in Chicago).

Northern Illinois University
Houses a number of digital collections: Early Illinois, Gilded Age, Lincoln, Civil War. It also holds the back issues of Illinois History Teacher and other state government magazines.

University of Illinois Digital Collections
The University of Illinois Library Digital Collections contain over two million digitized items. Their collection of digitized IL newspapers is extensive and freely accessible by the public.

University of Chicago Special Collections
The University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center offers a wide array of digital materials available online. Of note are various Chicago map collections, Chicago jazz, portions of the Ida B. Wells papers, and materials from the 1933 Century of Progress.

University of Illinois at Chicago Digital Image Collections
The University of Illinois at Chicago Library provides access to more than 60,000 digitized images, relating to topics such as the University’s history, medical history, and the Chicago-area history and culture. Of note are the Cook County Forest Preserve Collections, photos from seven settlement houses (including Hull-House), Richard J. Daley Era Photographs, and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center collection.

Women and Leadership Archives
WLA houses the manuscripts and papers of key women activists and organizations involved in politics, arts, feminism, religion, and social justice.

Urban Experience in Chicago
A mammoth collection of primary sources based on Hull House (and related Chicago issues) from 1889-1963. In addition, there are essays by scholars.

National Portals and Digital Collections

These national archives, libraries, and projects extend beyond Chicago or Illinois, or cover Chicago events of national importance.


Explore National Portals and Digital Collections

The American Presidency Project
Documents related to the American Presidency (from 1790-present) such as inaugural addresses, State of the Union speeches, executive orders, and more. Full text and video, where applicable, are available.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Search America’s historic newspaper pages from 1834-1922 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present.

Digital Public Library of America 

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress website has many avenues to explore that will lead to a wealth of primary source material (note: Primary Source Nexus is now listed as its own resource, see below).

History Matters
Find relevant articles on Chicago events of national importance and also use the “recommended history website” feature to discover more quality sites on specific topics.

Internet Archive
The Internet Archive offers permanent access to historical digital collections. The collections include texts, audio, moving images, and software, as well as archived web pages.

LIFE Magazine Photo Archives (Hosted by Google)
Search millions of historic photos from the 1860s to 1970s!

Making of America
19th century publications scanned and searchable.

National Archives
ARC is the database that will lead students into the vast holdings of the National Archives-at least 20 per cent of it!

New York Public Library Digital Collection
New York Public Library Digital Collection has over 4,000 images related to Chicago history and over 1,500 images related to Illinois history. The collection includes photos and other items from the 1893 World’s Fair and the Great Chicago Fire, as well as images from the 1919 race riots, local architecture and landscapes, portraits of individuals, and advertisements.

The Obsidian Collection Archives
The Obsidian Collection Archives has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to provide access to their ever-growing archival collection of images from Black Legacy newspapers and Black photographers. Chicago area topics from the Chicago Defender include the 1959 Housewares Show, Maxwell Street, mayor Harold Washington, aviator Fred Hutcherson Jr., and scenes from neighborhood life

Primary Source Nexus
Funded by a Library of Congress grant, this TPS-Barat repository is a useful place to search for primary source Library materials.

Women and Social Movements in the United States
Primary sources on women include a number who were active in Chicago such as Ida B. Wells and Florence Kelley. Available at DePaul, NEIU, and UIC libraries.

Audio-Visual Resources

A number of the websites above will contain audio-visual sources too. While these sources are crucial for documentaries and websites, all researchers can gain primary and secondary source information from them.


Explore Audio-Visual Resources

Associated Press (AP) Video Archive on YouTube

Chicago’s public cable station, is a great source for recordings that may be useful for either primary or secondary sources depending on the whether it is an interview/panel with participants or interview/recorded speech of an expert or scholar.

Curious City
Many times the CuriousCity folks will investigate historical questions and development some great products. Look for their resources too!

The Historymakers
A video archive of African-Americans in Chicago and the nation. Searchable by person or by keywords. Available through the Chicago Public Library’s Online Resources.

Media Burn Documentary Archives
A collection of documentaries by Chicago independent filmmakers over the last 40 years. Some real treasures!

Studs Terkel Audio
Hundreds of interviews with artists, writers, musicians, politicians and activists provide unique and important insights to many History Day topics.

UNUM brings Ken Burns’s films together in a single destination. Browse by topic or by timeline.

Special Collections Libraries & Archives

Special Collections and Archives contain the saved material of people, organizations, and businesses. Often the only copy of a flier or brochure, newsletter, photograph, meeting minutes, reports, and letters are available at these institutions. Not all sources exist online—they form only the tip of the iceberg—and there is much more to discover by spending time at a special collections and archives.  Each library contains different, unique material which are called “manuscripts and papers” or “records.” Their online finding aids may indicate whether there is material to be found, but also use the “Ask the Librarian” function to see what they recommend. Most libraries have set hours and advise making an appointment.

Please review How to Use a Finding Aid.

Our partners at NEIU Libraries have created a helpful video series about doing research at local archives.


Explore Special Collections Libraries & Archives

The Archives of American Art
The Archives of American Art provides a list of where to find the archives for artists connected to Chicago.

Art Institute of Chicago Archival Collections 

Black Metropolis Research Consortium Survey
The Black Metropolis Research Consortium Survey serves as a database of collections pertaining to the Black Chicago Metropolis.

Chicago History Museum
Use the search engine ARCHIE to search for the “Manuscripts and Records” of people and organizations. Our partners at NEIU have developed a video guide for this archive.

Chicago Public Library Special Collections

Chicago State University Archives & Special Collections

DePaul University Special Collections

Explore Chicago Collections
ECC contains not only thousands of digitalized images, but also the finding aids from which all the collection came so that researchers can follow-up to find more and different types of sources.

Gerber-Hart Library
A key resource for primary and secondary sources on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer issues.

Illinois Institute of Technology Digital Collections

Loyola University Chicago, Women & Leadership Archives

Mapping the Stacks: a Guide to Black Chicago’s Hidden Archives
Mapping the Stacks provides information about a variety of uncatalogued archival collections that focus on Black Chicago between 1930s and 1970s. The collections include literary manuscripts and visual illustrations; rare books and home movies; correspondence and photographs; ephemera and tape-recorded sound.

National Archives – Chicago
Among government documents, many pertaining to Chicago, is a collection of photographs of Black Chicago in the 1970s. The Great Lakes Regional office of NARA is located at 79th and Pulaski; personal help by staff and access to documents and microfilm.

Newberry Library Digital Resource Page
The Newberry Library’s Digital Resource page provides access to materials in their collections (as well as the library’s catalog).

Northwestern University, McCormick Special Collections

Roosevelt University Archives

University of Chicago Special Collections

University of Illinois at Chicago (video about conducting research at this archive.)


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