It's fresh and it's fun – history for the 21st century.

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It's the city's oldest cultural institution. Quite fitting considering it's the Chicago History Museum. What began as the Chicago Historical Society in 1856 has grown into an incredible showcase for the city's past and is home to over 22 million amazing artifacts and documents.

See how the Great Chicago Fire changed the city forever. Explore the dazzling White City of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Trace the paths of immigration to learn how it shaped the neighborhoods' diversity.

From Chicago Bulls basketball to Chicago politics, the stockyards to Wrigley Field, a lowrider to the first ‘L' car – there's so much to discover at this North Side gem located in the scenic Lincoln Park neighborhood. Dive right in with k exhibits that create multi-sensory experiences. Get out and explore the city through imaginative guided tours and events. Or check out what the museum offers just for kids and families. It's fresh and it's fun – history for the 21st century.


Chicago Styled: Fashioning The Magnificent Mile

Gianni Versace, Christian Lacroix, Yohji Yamamoto, and the House of Chanel combine with stunning designs by Norman Norell, Adolfo and James Galanos at the chic new exhibit Chicago Styled: Fashioning The Magnificent Mile® (on display through August 16, 2015). Here the biggest names in fashion tell the story of Chicago's famed shopping esplanade, North Michigan Avenue. More than 20 glorious ensembles... think bold, gold and shimmery Versace evening gown made of chain mail, or the delicate blue lace cocktail number by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel... were handpicked for display and show how this downtown district transformed into an international retail destination by top tastemakers, designers and civic leaders.


Railroaders: Jack Delano's Homefront Photography at Chicago History Museum

Prepare to be transported to the rail yards, the stations, and the roads in an immersive, multi-sensory exhibition. At Railroaders: Jack Delano's Homefront Photography (on display through August 10, 2015), discover the humanity, heroism, and diversity of the Chicago railroad community whose work was instrumental to the war effort during World War II. In 1942, photographer Jack Delano was tasked by the federal government to capture images of the rail community to rally support for the war effort. The result was three thousand images, many of which highlight Chicago's primacy to the North American rail network. The dignity of everyday work and the stories of individual railroaders and their descendants are explored in more than 60 photographs by Delano.


 Vivian Maier's Chicago at Chicago History Museum

Get a glimpse into Chicago's past through the eyes of local nanny turned brilliant amateur photographer at the featured exhibit,  (on display through July 30, 2017). Her life work wowed the world when thousands of prints and negatives were discovered in 2007, just after her death. Her legend lives larges as over-sized snapshots create a maze of black and white imagery. Surround yourself in candid street photography that reflects everyday living in urban America through the faces and neighborhoods of 1950s-1960s Chicago.


Since the founding of the Chicago History Museum, its ever-growing permanent collections have weathered fires, floods, building moves and major construction. All preserved and assembled for the sake of learning, discovery, creativity and of course, history.

Consider a research trip to the museum for closer looks into the collections, or see what is on display within the permanent exhibits.

The main, must-see is Chicago: Crossroads of America, an expansive survey of the city that takes you back to its founding and early history. Travel through themed galleries to gain perspective on Chicago's vital roles in commerce, industry and culture and see how this shaped modern America:

  • City on the Make, which highlights the fur trade, Fort Dearborn and the Union Stock Yard on a journey from the pre-industrial era of Native Americans to the age of heavy industry

  • City in Crisis, coverings events that not only affected Chicagoans, but captured the world's attention like the Haymarket Affair of 1886, the 1915 Eastland Disaster, the 1919 Race Riot and the Democratic National Convention of 1968

  • Second to None, filled with artifacts that show off Chicago's innovative side, from model skyscrapers and Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass panels to Wrigley gum and a Schwinn bicycle

Other highlights from the selection of permanent exhibits include Facing Freedom, an examination of eight conflicts over freedom from the 1850s to the 1970s; Sensing Chicago and The Dioramas.


Explore hidden Chicago gems by bus, boat, bike and walking tour – or take an even more adventurous route and tour by barstool, kayak or ‘L' train. Guided outings with museum experts take you across the city's neighborhoods and reveal their stories. There's a range of options for the history buff and something for everyone: check out historic watering holes on Chicago's Greatest Dives, walk among famous graves in Graceland Cemetery, or maybe stroll the Glitzy Gold Coast and be whisked to the golden era of the rich and famous.

Go in-depth with engaging history-themed activities on Second Saturdays for Families, insightful lectures and seminars, unique special events, guided exhibit tours and films.

Chicago's history is vast and colorful, and dynamic as ever. Visit chicagohistory.org to find out what's in store for your next visit.

Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 642-4600
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