The Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park is a historic building that was founded in 1856 to study Chicago’s rich history. The museum houses millions of original pieces from Chicago and U.S. history. You could spend an hour or an entire day there, and you’re sure to learn something new. Lovers of literature, fashion, history, anthropology, photography and more will find something to pour over.

Here is a list of top 10 things to see at the Chicago History Museum, including a President Lincoln exhibition closing soon! 


1.  Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier

Exhibition runs through August 2017

Explore the first American couturier’s humble beginnings in Chicago’s West Side with Making Mainbocher. This new exhibit features 30 garments, fashion illustrations and more. Born in 1890, Mainbocher became a trendsetter for the 20th century. He dressed royalty, Broadway stars and socialites. Definitely a must-see for any fashion lover.



2.  Lincoln’s Undying Words

Exhibition open now through February 20, 2017

Lincoln's Undying Words

The Lincoln's Dying Words exhibit celebrates Abraham Lincoln’s bravery as he fought against slavery, despite great opposition. Lincoln’s pen really was his best weapon in the fight for freedom. When you visit this exhibit, you’ll be inspired by how Lincoln’s words in his most famous and powerful speeches are still relevant today.



3.  Lincoln’s Chicago

Permanent exhibition

If you haven’t had your fill of Abe yet, the Lincoln's Chicago exhibit is absolutely worth checking out. Chicago was Lincoln’s second home and political headquarters. Through portraits created in the 1860s, you’ll be able to take a look at the vibrant city from Lincoln’s viewpoint.



4.  The Secret Lives of Objects

Permanent exhibition

The Secret Lives of Objects

This permanent exhibit explores the history of Chicago, as well as the rest of the country, through a collection of pristinely preserved objects from different time periods. All of the curated objects from The Secret Lives of Objects are of historical significance and tell unique secrets and stories.



5.  Sensing Chicago 

Permanent exhibition

Chicago History Museum

Another permanent and interactive exhibit, you’ll use all five senses to explore Chicago’s history—past and present—in Sensing Chicago. Ride a high-wheel bike, hear the Great Chicago fire, and even enjoy a famous Chicago-style hot dog! This experience can be enjoyed by visitors of any age.



6.  Vivian Maier’s Chicago

Permanent exhibition

Vivian Maier's Chicago at Chicago History Museum

Renowned photographer, Vivian Maier spent most of her life as a nanny in Chicago, and gets her own retrospective with the exhibition Vivian Maier's Chicago. Her outstanding work wasn’t discovered until after her death. Maier’s work documents Chicago neighborhoods in the 1960s and 70s with vivid imagery that gives you a unique perception into life at that time.



7.  Facing Freedom in America

Permanent exhibition

The exhibit Facing Freedom in America is based on the notion that the country has long been shaped on freedom-based conflicts. Engage with stories through artifacts from women’s suffrage, labor unions and Japanese internment.



8.  Chicago: Crossroads of America

Permanent exhibition

Chicago History Museum

Chicago: Crossroads of America lets you truly experience life in various significant times from Chicago’s history. Climb into an old-fashioned train car, step into a jazz club and stroll past a Marshall Field’s store window. Borrow an iPad at the ticket desk for a self-guided audio tour.



9.  Chicago Authored

Permanent exhibition

Chicago’s literature shapes our view of the city’s history. Explore Chicago’s greatest works of writing through a digital café. Before you leave, add your words to the Chicago Authored exhibit by writing a postcard or magnetic poetry.



10.  Research Center

If you want to dive even deeper into Chicago’s history, you can visit the museum’s research center. Admission is free for you to view archives, original manuscripts, architectural drawings, photographs and more. This is a great place to study for a school project, or just indulge your curiosity.


Plan your visit: Chicago History Museum

1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois 60614-6038
Telephone: 312-642-4600

  • Open daily (new on Tuesdays are evening hours until 7:30pm)
  • General admission $14-16 (children ages 12 and younger FREE)


Share your experience with us at @choosechicago after you visit the museum, then be sure to check out the surrounding Lincoln Park neighborhood - home to the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and more.