Chicago Open Archives 2017

"People are hungry for stories.  It's part of our very being.  Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too.  It goes from one generation to another."   ~ Studs Terkel

Celebrate Archives Month throughout October with Chicago area libraries, archives, and museums during Chicago Open Archives (COA).  This year's theme is Hidden Stories in the Archives.  Along with the events such as behind-the-scenes tours and lectures, Chicago Area Archives will be highlighting our Spotlight events.  Visit multiple Spotlight events, collect clue sheets, and play an online trivia game in November.  Check out the calendar below for more information.  What hidden stories will you find and what stories will you tell?

Follow #ChicagoOpenArchives on social media to stay up to date!



Photo: Barabara Crane/Ryerson and Burnham Archives

COA Events

    • 03 Oct 2017
    • 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
    • Paul V. Galvin Library, 35 West 33rd St., Chicago, IL 60616

    Visit the University Archives and Special Collections reading room for a short presentation on the history of Illinois Institute of Technology and to see highlights from our collections. University Archives and Special Collections staff will discuss the history of IIT, from the founding of the Armour Institute of Technology and Lewis Institute through the 1960's, using materials from the collection. Following a thirty-minute presentation, attendees will have an opportunity to browse materials including early wire recorders, photographs, projects, and academic catalogs from the New Bauhaus and Institute of Design, and Bronzeville community history materials.


    No registration needed

    • 03 Oct 2017
    • 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM
    • Room 320, 1750 W. Polk St. Chicago, IL 60612

    Join us to hear a talk by Dr. Brigid Lusk, a nurse historian and Director of UIC's Midwest Nursing History Research Center, about the NLM traveling exhibit Pictures of Nursing: The Zwerdling Postcard Collection, which will be on display at the Special Collections and University Archives at the Library of Health Sciences from September 18 through October 6.  Pictures of Nursing depicts the history of nursing through multiple lenses and a variety of visual styles, investigating the hold these images exert on the public imagination - then and now.  These images of nurses and nursing are informed by cultural values, ideas about women, men, and work; and attitudes toward class, race, and national differences.  By documenting the relationship of nursing to significant forces in 20th century life, such as war and disease, these postcards reveal how nursing was seen during those times.

    Registration is required

    • 04 Oct 2017
    • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
    • Online webinar

    Join the Chicago Collections for 60 minutes of discovery!! Here is your opportunity to learn about the fascinating hidden stories found in four of Chicago Collections Consortium members organizations!


    During the webinar viewers will dive into the following collections:

    • Chicago Zoological Society of Brookfield Zoo will allow you to reminisce of your trips to the Zoo by seeing the archival collections of souvenir items offered to visitors.
    • Illinois Institute of Technology will share highlights of their collection, and acquisitions resulting from an expanded collecting scope.
    • Frances Willard Memorial Library and Archives documents the life of Evanston resident and world-famous social reformer Frances Willard (1839-1898), and the history of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Stories of conflict and compromise, woman suffrage, Prohibition and Repeal will be revealed.
    • Loyola University Chicago (Women and Leadership Archives; Archives and Special Collections)
      • Women and Leadership Archives (WLA): An overview of the archives and highlights of several collections including the Polish Women's Alliance and the records of Chicago Labor leader and Women's Rights advocate Mollie West will be shared.
      • Archives and Special Collections: Explore the holdings of the Loyola University Chicago Archives & Special Collections including the Kale Williams papers and the St. Bernard Hospital records.

    Register here (required)


    • 04 Oct 2017
    • 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
    • Founders Memorial Library, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115

    Fact or Fiction: Northern Illinois University was the first school in the state to play a homecoming game?

    Attend a lecture by Mike Korcek, NIU Sports Information Director Emeritus, for answers to this and many other questions about the history of homecoming at NIU. Don't forget to stop by the Homecoming themed exhibit in the Library foyer for more myths and truths.

    The exhibit will remain on display through the month of October and is available to view during the hours Founders Memorial Library is open.

    Please join us for the lecture beginning at 7:00PM. Light refreshments will be provided. 

    No registration needed














    • 05 Oct 2017
    • 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    • Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL, 60608

    Alternative Histories, Alternative Archives, hosted by Video Data Bank, will be a day of presentations and discussion, bringing together a diverse body of voices to explore the past, present, and future of alternative archival practices.  Keynote speaker Josh MacPhee from the Interference Archives in NYC will be joined by Chicago area archivists, academics, artists, and activists to delve into the practical and theoretical elements related to the concept of the “The Archive” as it has gained potency over recent years, particularly in the realms of art and culture. The day-long event will be held at Co-Prosperity Sphere in the Bridgeport neighborhood, and it will consist of speakers, panels, performances, and discussion.


    To register for this event, and for more information visit our Eventbrite page.




    • 07 Oct 2017
    • 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
    • Chicago Public Library, Sulzer Regional Library 4455 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
    Pat Butler, President of the Ravenswood-Lake View Historical Association and author of "Hidden Histories of Ravenswood and Lake View" and librarian Julie Lynch will share stories from the archives. The program will start at 1 pm in the auditorium. After the presentation, visit the mezzanine for an Open House.

    No registration needed


    • 11 Oct 2017
    • 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
    • 329 West 18th, Suite 610, Chicago, IL 60616

    Join Chicago Film Archives staff for a casual evening screening and conversation about film conservation and archiving in the Midwest.

    • 12 Oct 2017
    • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
    • Archdiocese of Chicago Archives and Records Center 711 W. Monroe St., Chicago, IL, 60661

    "Researching Habits" will take on the challenge of uncovering information about an anonymous religious woman, who she was, where she lived, when she was working in Chicago, and more.  Using clues like a doll catalog, a directory, and a church anniversary book, we piece together the life of this unknown woman. Visitors will explore all kinds of clues and tools the Archdiocesan Archives uses to help solve genealogical mysteries like this.  


    No registration needed

    • 13 Oct 2017
    • 12:00 PM
    • 865 N. Sangamon St. Suite 405 Chicago IL 60642

    Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the digitization facilities and the videotape collections that are usually not accessible to the public.


    Media Burn Archive is a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 to collect, preserve, and make available documentary video and television created by artists, activists, and community groups. Media Burn Archive makes more than 3,000 hours of footage available online for use by scholars, educators, students, and the general public. The archive is not usually open to the public, but on Friday, October 13th you will be able to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the digitization facilities, view the videotape collections, and learn about the history of video production.


    No registration needed



    • 14 Oct 2017
    • 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
    • Aurora Regional Fire Museum, 53 N. Broadway, Aurora, IL 60505

    Fire can strike anyone and these events prove just how tragic fire can be – come learn about the 1934 Woolworth Fire and 1967 Cotton Mill Fire and how it impacted the department, town, and families of Aurora.

    The Aurora Regional Fire Museum will display a variety of log books, photographs, correspondence, and artifacts as part of a presentation conducted by Cayla Wagner, Intern, and Brian Failing, Executive Director. The presentation will demonstrate how fire can erupt into tragedy and affect everyone from families involved, firemen and other first responders, as well as the men who may have stayed behind to log the events of the day. We will explore the tragic Woolworth Fire from 1934 where three firefighters lost their lives and the 1967 Cotton Mill Fire where Aurora lost one of its fire apparatus. Attendees are welcome to explore the Museum after the presentation.

    Advanced registration is not needed, and this event is free, but a suggested donation of $5.00 is welcome.



    • 14 Oct 2017
    • 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
    • 60 West Walton Street Chicago, IL 60610

    Come spend an hour with Newberry Library archivists to discover clues and tools for dating materials that frequently have no date.  Using examples from our collections, we will look at ephemera including maps, postcards, newspaper clippings, and photographs and search for evidence that can unlock the mystery or date of the decade.

    • 17 Oct 2017
    • 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
    • Loyola University Chicago, 1032 W. Sheridan Road, Cudahy Library Room 2018, Chicago, IL 60660

    Loyola University Chicago Archives and Special Collections invites the public to come view items from our collections and get a behind the scenes tour. Items from our Congressional papers, rare book collection, and archival collections will be on display.


    No registration needed



    • 17 Oct 2017
    • 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
    • Chicago History Museum 1601 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614

    Beer and other spirits have helped shape architecture, industry, and community life in Chicago since its founding. From breweries to corner taverns, explore the hidden history of Chicago spirits with a selection of rarely seen materials from the Chicago History Museum’s archives, including some recent acquisitions. Archivists and Research Center staff will be on hand to share their insights into these collections at display stations on the first floor and in the Research Center. Admission is free to Illinois residents.  Please enjoy a beverage (spirited or otherwise) on us - attendees may present a printout of this Chicago Open Archives event page to the Museum's Visitors Services desk to receive a complimentary beverage ticket.


    Visitors will need to abide by the rules of the museum (e.g., complimentary bag check, no outside food or drink). Information on museum rules, parking and other visit logistics is available on the museum website.

    • 18 Oct 2017
    • 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
    • American Medical Association, 330 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618

    Visit the AMA Archives, and follow the tracks of Chicago's most notorious medical quacks. Using documents from the AMA Historical Health Fraud and Alternative Medicine Collection, visitors will investigate the case of Chicago medical quacks of the early 20th century.

    Email archives@ama-assn.org to register. This event is limited to 15 attendees. Registration closes Monday, October 16.

    • 18 Oct 2017
    • 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM
    • Oak Park Public Library Special Collections / Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park Archives, 834 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL 60301

    See Ernest Hemingway's first published writings from high school and the early photos he wouldn't want you to see.


    The Oak Park Public Library Special Collections and Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park Archives present early writings, photographs and ephemera owned by Ernest Hemingway and his family in Oak Park. On display will be early written works from his formative years and candid photographs of his life in Oak Park. This event is an open house (no registration necessary) and visitors may arrive anytime between 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm.



    • 20 Oct 2017
    • 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM
    • 7430 N. Ridge Blvd., Chicago, IL 60645

    Miriam Wilson, OSB, was respected and beloved for her work as chaplain at Cook County Jail and for her commitment to abolish the death penalty in Illinois.  To learn about her life as a Benedictine sister and how monastic life influenced her work, come explore an interactive exhibit with archival materials, a performance by the Northwind Players of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago's St. Scholastica Monastery and Still Point Theatre, and dialogue with current community members.

    Registration is required, please contact Virginia Jung, OSB, at (773) 764-2413 extension #203; limit 15 persons.

    • 21 Oct 2017
    • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
    • DePaul University Library Special Collections and Archives 2350 N. Kenmore Ave., Suite 314 Chicago, IL 60614

    Did you see the total solar eclipse on August 21st?  Celestial sightings have always captured our imagination, and in 1910 the Earth passing through the tail of Halley’s Comet inspired wonder and fear. Uncover a story about DePaul and Halley’s Comet using letters, photographs, and other primary sources on Saturday, October 21st.  This event will conclude with a behind-the-scenes tour of DePaul’s Special Collections and Archives.

    Advance registration is required.



    • 21 Oct 2017
    • 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM
    • 65 W. Jackson Blvd

    You are invited to celebrate Archives Month with our Union League Club of Chicago (ULCC) Archive Docents as we find the spirit of the ULC through seven “hidden stories” about how ULCC members and their actions influenced Chicago history.  These narratives will be generously illustrated with documents and artifacts from the ULCC Archives. 


    All participants will gather in the first floor lobby at 65 W. Jackson Blvd. between 1:30-1:45 PM to be escorted to the ULCC library.  Our storytelling event will start at 2:00 PM.  All documents, images, and artifacts used in the presentation will be on display after the program has concluded.  ULCC Director of Library and Archives, Cheryl Ziegler, and all Archive Docents will be available to answer questions.

    Please note: the ULCC is a private city club with a casual dress code in the library.  This includes dress denim, but does NOT include t-shirts, torn/distressed clothing, or shorts.

    We hope you will join us for this rare opportunity to get an inside look at the Union League Club of Chicago clubhouse and to find out how the ULCC spirit defines the community and culture of Chicago.

    Registration is required, please visit our Eventbrite page.  The cost of the event is $10.00 + Eventbrite fee.



    • 22 Oct 2017
    • 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
    • Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago 220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 4th floor lobby - Outside Turner Gallery

    In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s founding, we are celebrating our city and the role contemporary museums play in fostering creative connections and communities with a weekend-long event on Saturday and Sunday, October 21st and 22nd, MCA Hearts ChicagoEnjoy free admission to the museum and join preeminent Chicago artists from a range of disciplines to pay homage to the past, celebrate the present, and pave the way for the future.


    On Sunday, October 22nd, join Library and Archives staff for a "show and tell" featuring archival material relating to the MCA's long history of performance. While at the MCA, be sure to check out the archival exhibition To the Racy Brink co-organized by Library Director Mary Richardson and Curator Lynne Warren.

    No registration needed

    • 25 Oct 2017
    • 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
    • 7358 S. Pulaski Road Chicago IL 60629

    Our Chicago Open Archives Spotlight event shines a light on one of Chicago's most famous (or infamous personalities), Preston Tucker. Within the National Archives is evidence showing both sides of the Preston Tucker story.  Preston Tucker, considered a visionary in automotive design by some and a conniving con artist by others, developed the Tucker Torpedo automobile right in Chicago’s back yard. Our open house event will include a brief orientation about the National Archives, our mission and our holdings. We will take a short tour followed by the presentation of some of the nation’s most significant documents and objects. In addition, we will be highlighting records related to the Preston Tucker story.


    No registration needed



    • 26 Oct 2017
    • 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
    • Paul V. Galvin Library, 35 West 33rd St. Chicago, IL 60616

    Our collections contain mysteries about people and places from Illinois Institute of Technology's history.  Some of these have been solved, some have not.  Help archivists uncover clues about campus building and alumni with hands-on investigation using photographs, yearbooks, and other primary source material.

    No registration needed


    • 26 Oct 2017
    • 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
    • Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60603

    Browse highlights from our collection which explore Chicago's unique contribution to what is undoubtedly the most iconic building type of the modern era: the skyscraper.  The Ryerson & Burnham Archives collect artists’ and architects’ papers, with emphasis on 18th-20th century architecture and 19th century painting, prints, drawings, and decorative arts, and with particular depth in Chicago and the Midwestern designers. While Chicago's role in the development of the skyscraper is forever being reexamined, it undeniably remains its spiritual home. Join us in examining this legacy through a wide variety of papers, drawings and photographs from the Ryerson's storied archives.  


    No registration needed



    • 27 Oct 2017
    • 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
    • Loyola University Chicago, 1032 W. Sheridan Road, Cudahy Library Room 2018, Chicago, IL 60660

    Loyola University Chicago Archives and Special Collections invites the public to come view items from our collections and get a behind the scenes tour. Items from our Congressional papers, rare book collection, and archival collections will be on display.


    No registration needed


    • 27 Oct 2017
    • 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
    • Women and Leadership Archives Loyola University Chicago Piper Hall Third Floor 970 W. Sheridan Rd. Chicago, IL 60626


    Guerilla art! Communists! A bowling poet!...? Explore some of the unique

    stories told through the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA)

    collections. 


    Visit the WLA at Loyola University Chicago any time during our

    Open House.  Uncover clues of Mollie West (Chicago labor leader, women's

    rights activist, and one time Communist Party member), SisterSerpents

    (Chicago feminist art collective that made political statements through art)

    and Eleanor Risteen Gordon (professor, poet, and bowling enthusiast).  For

    more information, please visit our website.


    No registration needed

    • 28 Oct 2017
    • 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
    • Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S State Street, 9th Floor, Chicago, IL 60605

    Archivists from Special Collections at the Harold Washington Library Center and from the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection team up to explore the community impact of Chicago's Civil Rights Movement on buildings in African American neighborhoods in back-to-back events (the first event starts at 10:00 am and the second starts at 11:00 am). Through highlights and clues from the Rev. Clay Evans Archive, the Brenetta Howell Barrett Papers and other related collections from each repository, the archivists will guide participants through an exploration of documents and photographs that reveal lesser known stories of South and West Side civil rights activists.

    No registration needed

    • 28 Oct 2017
    • 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
    • 1730 Chicago Avenue (Rear building) Evanston, IL 60201

    On Saturday, October 28, top off your Archives Month experience by exploring the hidden stories of the mild-mannered yet reform-minded members of the 19th century’s largest woman’s group.

    The Willard Archives—even the building is almost hidden, tucked away behind the beautifully restored Frances Willard House Museum in Evanston. But hiding our treasures is definitely not our plan! We hope you will visit the Archives to help these stories see the light of day.

    Who knew?

    • A Burnham and Root office building in Chicago’s Loop, built by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in 1892?
    • A drinking fountain in Chicago, paid for by pennies from children around the world, stolen in 1956 and re-created in Lincoln Park a few years ago?
    • A petition signed by 7.5 million people around the world asking their governments to protect families by banning addictive substances?
    • A letter from Lizzie Borden thanking the WCTU for its support?
    • Enough details about the thousands of women involved in the WCTU to make a genealogist’s head spin?

    The story of the WCTU--headquartered in Chicago and Evanston for over 100 years--is a Chicago story, and it is an international story as well. The story involves conflict and compromise, empowerment, change over time, success and failure documented in letters, reports, photographs, scrapbooks, and artifacts, which will be on display in the Archives. 

    No registration needed


    • 28 Oct 2017
    • 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S State Street, 9th Floor, Chicago, IL 60605

    Archivists from Special Collections at the Harold Washington Library Center and from the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection team up to explore the community impact of Chicago's Civil Rights Movement on buildings in African American neighborhoods in back-to-back events (first event starts at 10:00 am and the second starts at 11:00 am). Through highlights and clues from the Rev. Clay Evans Archive, the Brenetta Howell Barrett Papers and other related collections from each repository, the archivists will guide participants through an exploration of documents and photographs that reveal lesser known stories of South and West Side civil rights activists.

    No registration needed

    • 31 Oct 2017
    • 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
    • Loyola University Chicago, 1032 W. Sheridan Road, Cudahy Library Room 2018, Chicago, IL 60660

    Loyola University Chicago Archives and Special Collections invites the public to come view items from our collections and get a behind the scenes tour. Items from our Congressional papers, rare book collection, and archival collections will be on display.


    No registration needed


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