Archives and Special Collections Division at Chicago Public Library

Archives and Special Collections Division

Chicago Public Library’s Archives and Special Collections Division, established in 2020, is comprised of three public research repositories with nearly 29,000 linear feet of primary and secondary source materials and a systemwide Exhibits unit.

ASCD Mission

Collect, describe, catalog, preserve and provide access to physical and digital collections, and exhibitions, in order to foster primary source literacy, community engagement, and support a more accurate reflection of Chicago history for generations to come.

ASCD Vision

That people have equitable access to historical materials that reflect a wide range of communities and experiences in order to help deepen people’s understanding of the world around them.

Collections and Exhibits

If you have not made an appointment to view our collections, please call first, as hours vary across locations.

The Northside Neighborhood History Collection at Sulzer Regional Library accepts materials with a focus on Northside neighborhoods and history, including documenting the area’s immigrant history and changing demographics over time. Materials in the collection reflect other countries or regions of immigrant and migrant communities on Chicago’s north side, including Southeast Asia and Northern Europe. Neighborhoods represented include, but are not limited to, Albany Park, Logan Square, Lake View, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, and Portage Park.

Special Collections and Preservation at Harold Washington Library Center accepts materials related to the City of Chicago, including historical collections of some city agencies such as the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library, the City Hall Press Office, the Department of Urban Renewal, and former Mayor Harold Washington’s political papers. Other collections document Chicago neighborhoods, Chicago theaters and production, Illinois in the Civil War, Chicago’s World’s Fairs and Chicagoans or Chicago organizations of historical significance.

The Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection at Woodson Regional Library is the largest collection of materials in the Midwest with a focus or emphasis on Black Americans and Black history in Chicago and Illinois. Subjects of note include civil rights, education, labor, music, religion and publishing. Historical subjects such as the Great Migration and Black Chicago Renaissance are documented throughout the archival collections of individuals, institutions and organizations.

Exhibits activates ASCD collections at all 81 CPL locations and facilitates new exhibition possibilities with community partners across the City of Chicago. This includes liaising with the City’s Department for Cultural Affairs and Special Events on its Public Art Program installations and maintenance and collaborating with other cultural heritage institutions on artmaking and exhibition projects.

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