May 23, 2022

Illinois: “Chicago Collections Brings City-Related Archives Under One Digital Roof”

From the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago Collections, a new entity bringing old entities together, is about much more than that. Call it one-stop shopping for researchers, from high school students to wizened academics. Call it a case study in inter-institutional cooperation. Call it a free website where those curious about the story of Chicago can poke around and happily fritter away time.


Or just look at the exhibition drawing from the collections that’s been up at the Harold Washington Library Center. In “Raw Material: Uncovering Chicago’s Historical Collections,” on the library’s ninth floor, you’ll see a 1937 map of Brookfield Zoo, a John Fischetti drawing of the then-new Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, Second City Theatre games workshop notes, and a 1927 in-studio photograph of the two Native American equestrian sculptures that now stand at Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue.

Among dozens of items on display — quirky, technical, surprising, profound — those four come from, respectively, the Chicago Zoological Society, Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Those institutions, plus 17 more universities, museums and libraries in the area, are the current members of the Chicago Collections consortium. To fund its work, the organization collects modest dues from its members (about $6,000 annually at the top level of membership, Spadafora said) and seeks grant money (the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been a big early funder).

Read the Complete Tribune Article

From the Newberry Library:

Users of the new portal will encounter finding aids for locating items within the physical repositories to which they belong. In some cases, digitized versions of certain objects are available as well. The metadata records connected to these digital images display information within the Explore Chicago Collections environment, while also linking to proprietary digital collections associated with the home institutions. Anyone who comes across Newberry materials in Explore Chicago Collections will be able to toggle over to Chicago and the Midwest, a digital collection launched to coincide with the introduction of the ECC portal and designed to present a wider range of Newberry images users find there.


Highlights of the digital collection include maps showing the extent of the Great Chicago Fire; original drawings by the political cartoonist John T. McCutcheon; letters written home by visitors to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893; and handbills, playbills, and other ephemera from the Dill Pickle Club, the early-twentieth-century bohemian redoubt for Chicago’s literati and radical political thinkers such as Sherwood Anderson, Floyd Dell, and Ben Reitman.

Over time, the Newberry’s Digital Initiatives and Services staff will continue to add content from the library’s archives to both Explore Chicago Collections and the Chicago and the Midwest digital repository, contributing to a digital research environment in which users interact with the original historical materials constituting Chicago’s past in new and increasingly interconnected ways.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.