Masks required in Abakanowicz Research Center; optional for rest of Museum MORE

Delve into Chicago history from wherever you are! Our new exclusive lectures can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home, your virtual office, or incorporated into your next virtual event.

Through the use of technology, we’re telling stories about the city’s past in compelling and innovative ways to an even broader audience. Chicago History Museum curatorial staff will take you through some of Chicago’s defining moments in history through the lens of its tragedies, triumphs, social justice, and diverse populations. These private sessions include a 30-minute lecture by one of our experts followed by a Q&A.


Peter T. Alter is the Museum’s Gary T. Johnson Chief Historian and director of the Studs Terkel Center for Oral History. In his role as the chief historian, he works on exhibitions and online projects and teaches in DePaul University’s public history program. As the director of the Studs Terkel Center for Oral History, he develops new Museum oral history projects.

Working in Chicago
Incorporated in 1837, Chicago was a frontier town that soon became home to numerous industries, such as meatpacking, garment making, goods manufacturing, professional services, and more. Learn how Chicago became known as the “City That Works.”
They Came to Chicago
Like many cities in the US, Chicago has welcomed people from all over the world. With his background in US immigration history, Alter discusses how migrants, immigrants, and refugees have adapted to life in Chicago and contributed to the city’s culture.
Polish Chicago
Discover how Chicago became known as the “American Warsaw.” Alter discusses over 150 years of Chicago Polish history and an upcoming exhibition about Chicago’s Polish community.
The Black Sox and Chicago Baseball
Discover how and why eight Chicago White Sox players allegedly threw the 1919 World Series through an arrangement with a nationwide gambling syndicate. Alter will discuss what we know about the scandal, the historical context in which it occurred, and relevant items in the Museum’s collection.
Naming Chicago Neighborhoods
What’s in a name? Discover how Chicago’s 77 community areas came to be and their relationship to Chicago neighborhoods. Alter explores the intellectual and social history of the community areas and neighborhood naming during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This talk runs from 30 to 45 minutes.

Charles E. Bethea is the Andrew W. Mellon Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs at CHM. He has worked in museums for more than 25 years in several positions, including education, curatorial, and administration. At CHM, Bethea is responsible for overseeing all curatorial activities, providing an overall curatorial vision and direction, and prioritizing all work in the department. In addition, he provides direction for the Museum’s collecting agenda, including new acquisitions and deaccessions and the development of new exhibitions.

Sins of the Past: Understanding Where It All Began
Sins of the Past offers a journey through United States history addressing issues of racism and social justice through the lens of the African American experience from enslavement to civil rights. Get the facts on how the myth of Black inferiority and criminalization was used to justify chattel enslavement, and how it continues to impact modern day conditions.
Citizen Soldier: African Americans in Times of War
Citizen Soldier offers a glimpse into the history of African Americans in times of war from the earliest accounts of patriotism to the prolonged desegregation of the armed forces. Get a brief historical overview of several conflicts from the American Revolution to Operation Desert Storm, as well as the social realities for African Americans of each era and ponder the hypocrisy of the US asking Black Americans to fight for a country that treats them like second-class citizens.
Remembering Dr. King: 1929–1968
While Martin Luther King Jr.’s activism focused on dismantling the systems that kept African Americans oppressed in the American South, he also spent time in Chicago and often spoke out on the realities of northern discrimination, particularly around the issues of poverty, education, and housing. Bethea discusses the Museum’s exhibition Remembering Dr. King: 1929–1968, which features photographs depicting key moments in Dr. King’s work and the Civil Rights Movement, with a special focus on his time in Chicago.
The national story of America’s Independence is well documented. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence asserting “all men were created equal.” However, equality was denied to those who were enslaved and of African descent. For them, freedom did not arrive with independence from the British. On June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued, news that the Civil War had ended finally reached Galveston, Texas. This event is now commemorated as Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, considered the oldest celebration commemorating the ending of chattel enslavement in the United States. Bethea presents on the legacy of Juneteenth, the connections of the event to Chicago, and the importance of remembering the story today.


Please send in your request at least four weeks before the desired session date in order to ensure availability.

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago Stories