CAA’s Early Years

14 Oct 2012 9:28 AM | Anonymous

In honor of Archives Month, the Outreach committee looked into the early history of CAA. Using past newsletters from our archives, Jeanie Child prepared an overview of CAA activities in its first few years.


In the early 1980s, concerns were growing about the massive stores records created by the City of Chicago and Cook County, stored in leaky warehouses and inaccessible to the public. Working to rectify this disregard for the area’s documentary heritage was one of the driving forces behind the creation of CAA. Members assisted with the State Archivist’s inventory of these records and promoted the creation of a central urban repository to house the materials. By 1985, it was clear that a city or county-run repository would not be created. Instead, Chicago and Cook County would become part of the Illinois Regional Archives Repository (IRAD) system. Today, the records that once languished in damp warehouses can be accessed at the IRAD facility at Northeastern Illinois University.


Around the same time, CAA compiled a directory of 183 archival repositories using information from questionnaires sent to about 900 entities in the eight-county Chicago metro area. In the days before online resources such as the Illinois Archival Repositories Directory, this printed directory provided locations, hours, fees, description of holdings, and services descriptions for the diverse listings. Entries in Archival and Manuscript Repositories in Metropolitan Chicago and the Calumet Region of Northwest Indiana (1986) include the Salvation Army, Sears Roebuck and Co., Ft. Sheridan Museum; numerous local public libraries, historical societies, and religious repositories; and many institutions that are no longer in existence or are now under new management. Energetic CAA members obtained a $1000 grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, and several private gifts, that covered not only the costs of production and mailing but also two related workshops.


In addition to promoting archives and professional activities, CAA built strong social traditions. The April 1985 newsletter notes, “CAA members have proven in the past that they never need a reason to celebrate with food and drink.” For the annual spring meeting of the Midwest Archives Conference, held in Chicago that year, CAA planned an open house to welcome archivists from around the region. Showing that they indeed were ready to dialogue, these professionally-minded CAA’ers announced “We will supply (the first) three cases of beer and some snacks.”


CAA continues to offer opportunities for professional development and socializing. Please join us at one of our upcoming events and check out news from the community.

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