Please note, the Modern by Design exhibition is temporarily closed for repairs and will reopen on April 27 More

Museum Awarded an IMLS Grant to Digitize Card Catalog


Museum’s Entire Small Manuscript Collection to be Discoverable Online

The Chicago History Museum is making its small manuscript collection, that includes personal accounts of early life in Chicago, discoverable online thanks to a generous Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

“Scholars have relied on visiting the Museum’s paper card catalog for the better part of a century,” said Russell Lewis, executive vice president and chief historian of the Chicago History Museum. “This grant will allow the Museum’s entire small manuscript collections to become discoverable online to researchers and scholars around the world.”

This grant will fund the Museum’s project to convert 6,000 of its small manuscript collections into fully digital catalog records. The collections will be discoverable both in the Museum’s public online library system (ARCHIE) and in digital databases including WorldCat and EXPLORE Chicago Collections.

Acquired by the Museum in the early 20th century, the manuscript collections describe aspects of life in the United States from the Colonial era to the Civil War. Manuscripts include personal narratives of The Great Chicago Fire, diaries from Chicago’s early settlers, and business and club records from the early 20th century.

The Museum is honored to be one of 132 projects that were selected to receive a grant from a pool of 558 applications.

The Museums for America program supports projects that strengthen the ability of an individual museum to serve its public. The program’s three project categories are learning experiences, community anchors and collections stewardship.

“Museums for America is instrumental in helping museums of all disciplines, all sizes, and all budgets across the country address opportunities identified by their organization as central to achieving their missions,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “It is humbling to read the many applications about the varied ways museums are improving quality of life in communities large and small, and responsibly caring for culturally significant objects.”

“It’s hard to say what will become of the analog card catalog now that it’s retired,” said Lewis. “Perhaps it will find a home in the Museum’s historic collection.”

For more information about the Chicago History Museum’s collection, and Research Center visit

About IMLS The Institute of Museum and Library Services is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission has been to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. For the past 20 years, our grant making, policy development, and research has helped libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


The Chicago History Museum, a major museum and research center for Chicago and American history, is located at 1601 N. Clark Street. The Museum has dedicated more than a century to celebrating and sharing Chicago’s stories through dynamic exhibitions, tours, publications, special events and programming. The Museum collects and preserves millions of artifacts, documents and images to help audiences connect to the city and its history. The Chicago History Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the Chicago Park District on behalf of the people of Chicago. The Chicago History Museum is a 2016 winner of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the highest award given to these institutions for their community engagement and having an impact on the lives of individuals, families, and communities.

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago's Stories

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