Established in 1981 with a generous gift from Chicago radio station WXRT, the Chicago Blues Archives house audio and visual recordings, promotional materials, artifacts and related materials. Of particular interest is a collection of demo and live recordings not commercially available and an extensive collection of material from the Chicago Blues Festivals—including audio and video recordings of festival performances.
The Chicago Blues Archives hold a significant collection of recordings, commercial and non-commercial, from 78s to CDs. Highlights include live recordings from WXRT's Blues Breaker Specials, including artists such as Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal and Johnny Winter performing in Chicago clubs.
The video collection includes videotapes from Soundstage, Chicago public television station WTTW's live music program of the 1970s, including an episode with Muddy Waters.
The archives also holds video and/or audio tapes of "speaking of the Blues," a series of programs consisting of interviews and performances by local Chicago blues legends at the Harold Washington Library Center.