Archives In and Around Chicago

This list was compiled by Alex Jania, University of Chicago





  • Chicago Cultural Alliance: Umbrella organization and former partner organization during the Broadening Horizons Course. The organization's mission is to connect, promote, and support cultural heritage centers/museums in the city. The alliance is made up of 40+ “Core Member” heritage organizations, museums, and centers, who are connected with affiliated “Partners” (UChicago Office of Civic Engagement is listed here). 
    Programs Include: 
    Conservation & Collections: Project aimed at providing museological support for Core Member organizations. Facilitates the training of interns, volunteers, and new staff in archival methods. Andrew Leith is the coordinator for this program
  • Sweet Water Foundation:Organization that practices “Regenerative Neighborhood Development” as a method of social justice to build community and transform the ecology of “blighted” communities. Uses a mix of urban agriculture, art, and education.
  • Puerto Rican Arts Alliance (PRAA): Headquartered in between the Logan Square and Avondale Neighborhoods on the northwest side. This organization runs three community centers around the city to preserve Puerto Rican by maintaining traditions, promoting art, and education. They emphasize access to art and music education. |
    Programs include:
    El Archivo: PRAA, in partnership with Chicago Cultural Alliance/Chicago History Museum/University Illinois-Chicago, is building a digital collection of Puerto Rican life in Chicago and Midwest more generally. They focus on collecting pictures of family/home life, social life, military service, and the migrant experience. They have also created curriculums for primary school social studies programs in Illinois based on the archive.
  • Bronzeville Historical Society: Historical society that is aimed at protecting and preserving the history of black Chicago, based in and focused on the Bronzeville neighborhood. Their website consists only of this wordpress site which includes an array of announcements and articles. 
  • The Legacy Project: Cultural and educational non-profit organization dedicated to research and promotion of LGBTQ contributions to history. The Legacy Project consists of multiple parts, including the Legacy Walk (consisting of outdoor pylons in Boystown featuring important LGBTQ figures), the Legacy Wall (a travelling installation about LGBTQ history and the challenges faced by LGBTQ youth), and the Legacy Project Education Initiative (a suite of professional teaching tools for LGBTQ history) among other programs.
  • Center on Halsted: LGBTQ+ community center focused on community building and LGBTQ+ health. Although most community programs do not focus on “history,” the center does have programming around the Transgender Day of Rememberance (November 20th annually).
  • Southeast Environmental Task Force: Founded in 1989, the SETF is an organization based in the Southeast side of Chicago (Calumet region) whose mission is educating the community with the goal of improving the local environment. Their long term goal is to turn the Southeast side, which includes industrial, residential, and natural areas, into a model of an environmentally sustainable urban community. Their programs include educational tours and workshops, pollution prevention advocacy, and the preservation of open space in the area.  

University Programs

  • Mapping the Stacks: Led by UChicago English professor Jacqueline Goldsby and housed at UChicago  Mapping the Stacks (MTS) seeks to provide the numerous archives centered on African-American life in Chicago with faculty/graduate student labor to make sure said archives can be accessible by the public. This project is primarily focused on identifying archives, archival management, and the creation of finding aids. 

    Loyola University Chicago-Public History Degree Programs: Loyola University Chicago offers a number of degrees in Public History including a terminal MA and joint PhD with American History. Their website includes information and links to public history projects/publicly facing publications about their work.
    Programs and Publications Include:
    Public History Lab: The Public History Lab is a graduate student-led effort to do Public History and apply their skills in the Chicago area. As of right now, the PHL is engaged in two projects with the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society and the Chrysler Village History Project. The PHL is a committee under the auspices of the  LU-C HGSA and is open to all LU-C History Grad students.

    The Lakefront Historian: The Lakefront Historian is a student run blog on Public History based out of LU-C. Includes articles about the PHL’s public history projects as well as articles of general interests in public history (I have to include this one on virtual museums in the game Animal Crossing during COVID-19).


  • Chicago History Museum: Originally founded in 1856 as the Chicago Historical Society, in 2006 renovated and rebranded as the Chicago History Museum, one of Chicago’s oldest cultural institutions devoted to maintaining archives, exhibiting material and a number of public facing programs.
    Programs include:

    OUT at CHM: A committee within CHM dedicated to telling the stories of people with a variety of sexual orientations and gender expressions within the urban context of Chicago. Hosts a number of events on various topics (undocumented and queer, Queer fashion, LGBTQ+ Civil Rights ect.) 2020 programming is not on the page, but former events can be found on their Facebook page

    Chicago Metro History Fair: Project based inquiry program for 6th to12th grade students. Students choose project topics according to an annual theme. Projects (including websites, performances, papers and more) are judged by volunteers at competitions in the Chicago metro area.

    Your Story, Our Story: A project led by the Tenement Museum in NYC, partnering with CHM. Invited anyone living in America to upload an image of an object and tell its story. The CHM site is devoted to Chicagoans telling their own stories connected to objects.
  • Lake County Dunn Museum Archives and Reading Room
  • National Public Housing Museum: Museum in River North, located in a former public housing building devoted to telling the national history of public housing in the United States. Advocates for housing as a right for every individual. Seeks to dispel myths and discuss hard truths about the legacy and future of public housing in America.
    Programs include:
    People of Public Housing: A project inspired by “Humans of New York,” it collects photographs of people who live or have lived in public housing and tells a brief story about their experience. 

    NMPHM Oral History Archive and Corps: A corps of oral historians and archives devoted to collecting and preserving the experiences of current and former residents of public housing in America. Museum is currently partnered with Skyla Hearn of the DuSable and several public housing residents to develop the archive. Students can receive training in the ethical use of oral history and some are hired by the archive itself. They also created a radio show for Lumpen Radio