The Chicago History Museum is the oldest cultural institution in the city and features exhibits that showcase the history of the region. The Museum was recently renovated in 2006 and serves thousands of families and school groups each year through field trips and The Research Center. Next read: Things to Do in Chicago
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The Chicago Historical Society was founded in 1856 with a building on Dearborn street in Chicago. That building was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 and the museum used temporary buildings until 1896 when construction began on a brand-new building by Henry Ives Cobb.
In 1920 the Society was able to acquire a collection of historical artifacts and paintings from the Charles F. Gunter estate. Some of the artifacts from this estate include Abraham Lincoln’s bed and a compass own by George Washington. AS the collection grew, so did the need for more space. Graham, Anderson, Probst, & White designed a new building in Lincoln Park in a Georgian Colonial style. The museum opened in 1932 and is the current location of the Chicago History Museum although several renovations and improvements have been done.
The Museum is open 7 days a week and participates in the Museums for All and Blue Star Museums programs. There are also discount days for Illinois residents. More details on admission and hours can be found online.
The Research Center
The Research Center is only open Tuesday through Friday and is where the printed materials can be accessed at the Chicago History Museum. The collection includes manuscripts, prints, photographs, architectural plans, and much more. The Research Center is free to the public but visitors must register with the service desk. Children under 6 years old are not permitted. There are online research opportunities through the Chicago History Museum website as well. Appointments to use the Research Center should be made in advance.
The Chicago History Museum has 9 permanent exhibits and space for temporary and rotating exhibits as well. Temporary exhibits are posted in detail for the year on the museum website.
The Great Chicago Adventure Film- This film runs every 30 minutes and explores the history and culture of Chicago from the Great Chicago Fire through the building of the Sears Tower in the 1970’s and President Obama’s Grant Park victory speech.
The Fifth Star Challenge- Chicago’s flag has 4 stars on it but this exhibit explores what the meaning of a fifth star would be. Visitors can cast their vote on what they want the fifth star to represent while learning about Chicago’s history.
Sensing Chicago- This interactive exhibit uses all 5 senses to explore the cultural differences and history of Chicago.
The Secret lives of Objects- Showcased in this exhibit are pieces from the collection that have been in storage for quite some time. Located in the Skyline Gallery, this exhibit features artifacts from across the country and through various periods of history.
Lincoln’s Chicago- This gallery is an homage to President Abraham Lincoln who had a second home in Chicago. The gallery showcases what the city was like during the time Lincoln would have lived and visited here.
Chicago Authored- Explore the authors that have shaped the culture of Chicago through multimedia experiences in this exhibit.
Chicago: Crossroads of America- Highlights of the Museum’s collected are featured in this exhibit that takes visitors through historical events of the past and present in Chicago.
Facing Freedom in America- Visitors can explore what freedom means for the many different generations of Americans that have lived in the Chicago Region over the last two centuries.
Vivian Maier’s Chicago- Urban Chicago life is the focus of this exhibit shown through the photographs of Vivian Maier.
Programs and Events
The Chicago History Museum offers a variety of programs and tours that provide a deeper exploration of the Chicago history or culture. There are lectures, Happy Hours, Movies in the Park, members exclusive events, cultural celebrations and more for the community and visitors to enjoy. There are also several different tours offered at and through the Chicago History Museum including a riverboat cruise, a walking tour, cemetery tour, running, trolley and bike tours, and a History Fit tour. Bus tours are also available for large groups and docent guided tours of the museum are available for school and community groups.
Annual Fourth of July Celebration- every July 4th, the Chicago History Museum celebrates with the community and hosts a daylong event full of family activities and more.
Hot Dog Fest- This annual summer festival is all about Chicagoans favorite food—the hot dog! The three-day festival features live music and food vendors.
1601 North Clark Street, Chicago Illinois, 60614, website, Phone: 312-642-4600