Chicago History Bibliography

Chicago Metro History Education Center (CMHEC) Chicago History Book List

Every year, new books on Chicago History are published.  Most should be available at the Chicago Public Library or interlibrary loan, but also available through used bookstores, national chains, and independent bookstores.  Here are just some of the offerings:

Recommended Websites for Primary Sources on Chicago History

Websites for History Fair Research

Chicago History Museum
Research and Education leads to the History Fair bibliographies, links to recommended websites, and the on-line catalog to CHS materials. Elsewhere on the website, find digital projects and exhibitions which include hundreds and thousands of primary sources centered on the Chicago Fire, Haymarket, Daily News photographs, recent immigration, freedom struggles, etc.

Chicago Public Library
Search the catalog on-line to help plan for the visit. Students can know what the books are on their subject and where to find them (or, at least begin!) Learn Chicago contains bibliographies, guides to special collections, helpful timelines, and primary sources. Magazines and Databases allow off-site research to many key databases-with a library card.

Digital Library of Illinois and Chicago History

Digital copies of older history books and other printed material on Illinois and Chicago.  There is a special feature on defunct amusement parks throughout the state too.

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress website has many avenues to explore that will lead to a wealth of primary source material.

Check out the LOC primary sources spotlights on Illinois history and Chicago history which TPS-Barat pulled together for its Primary Source Nexus site.

National Archives
ARC is the database that will lead students into the vast holdings of the National Archives-at least 20 per cent of it!
Among government documents, many pertaining to Chicago, is a collection of photographs of Black Chicago in the 1970s. The Great Lakes Regional office of NARA is located at 79th and Pulaski; personal help by staff and access to documents and microfilm.

Newberry Library's Chicago History Research Links
The local history department compiled this list of key research websites.

Newberry Library's Digital Resource Page
The Newberry Library's Digital Resource page provides access to materials in their collections which include reference tools, teaching materials, images galleries, original scholarship, electronic databases, and electronic journals.

Newberry Library's Digital Collections for the Classroom
The Newberry Library recently launched their Digital Collections for the Classroom page, which provides access to classroom-ready, primary-source documents selected from the library's holdings.

Northern Illinois University
Houses a number of digital collections: Early Illinois, Gilded Age, Lincoln, Civil War. It also holds the back issues of Illinois History Teacher and other state government magazines.

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Imagebase
Focus on maps and other data on Chicago neighborhoods, especially those around the university, and downtown.

Urban Experience in Chicago
A mammoth collection of primary sources based on turn of the century Chicago through the work of Hull House-but the wealth of materials makes it a must-search for many topics based in the time period.

Canal Corridor Association
Information about the Illinois and Michigan Canal; will link to the archives at Lewis University

Illinois Digital Archives
Digitized the collections from the Illinois State Historical Library and other libraries and historical societies from around the state.

Teaching with Historic Places (National Park Service)
Primary and secondary sources on Bronzeville and Columbus Park.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute

Illinois State Archives


Women and Social Movements in the United States
Primary sources on women include a number who were active in Chicago such as Ida B. Wells and Florence Kelley

Primary Sources on Illinois History from a teacher at IMSA

Making of America
19th century publications scanned and searchable., History Gateway
The National History Education Clearinghouse's History Gateway page provides a valuable search engine for all your historical inquiries.

The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive offers permanent access to historical digital collections. The collections include texts, audio, moving images, and software, as well as archived web pages.

National History Day, Research Central
National History Day's Research Central page provides suggested web links designed to help students, teachers, parents, administrators, and visitors in their research.

Audio-Visual Resources

Chicago’s public cable station, is a great source for recordings that may be useful for either primary or secondary sources depending on the whether it is an interview/panel with participants or interview/recorded speech of an expert or scholar.

Chicago in Maps
Chicago in Maps, curated by Dennis McClendon, is a simple website devoted to gathering together links to various historic maps of Chicago.

Curious City
Many times the CuriousCity folks will investigate historical questions and development some great products. Look for their resources too!

LIFE Magazine Photo Archives (Hosted by Google)
Search millions of historic photos from the 1860s to 1970s!

Media Burn Documentary Archives
A collection of documentaries by Chicago independent filmmakers. Some real treasures!

AP Video on Youtube

New York Public Library Digital Collection
New York Public Library Digital Collection has over 4,000 images related to Chicago and over 1,500 images related to Illinois.

Local Archival Collections from Research Centers With On-Line Finding Aids or Lists of Collections:

*Explore Collections Consortium -- Portal to many of the special collections' holdings that can be found in the city

University of Chicago Special Collections
Links to special collections in Chicago area, including the Chicago Archvists' "repository finder"-doesn't THAT sound worth checking out?!

Mapping the Stacks: a Guide to Black Chicago's Hidden Archives
Mapping the Stacks provides information about a variety of uncatalogued archival collections that focus on Black Chicago between 1930s and 1970s. The collections include literary manuscripts and visual illustrations; rare books and home movies; correspondence and photographs; ephemera and tape-recorded sound.

Black Metropolis Research Consortium Survey
The Black Metropolis Research Consortium Survey serves as a database of collections pertaining to the Black Chicago Metropolis.

Center for Research Libraries
a consortium of university libraries and research centers

Chicago Public Library Special Collections

University of Illinois at Chicago

Northwestern University, McCormick Special Collections

DePaul University Special Collections

Loyola University Chicago Digital Special Collections

Loyola University Chicago, Women & Leadership Archives

Roosevelt University Archives

Illinois Institute of Technology Digital Collections

Art Institute of Chicago Archival Collections

Chicago State University Archives & Special Collections

CMHEC Guide to Internet Literacy

The World Wide Web can bring primary sources in Chicago history (as well as lots of other stuff!) into our homes, schools, and libraries. This accessibility is not without its drawbacks, however. Frankly, there is a lot of junk out there, but History Fair students can turn this challenge into an opportunity to develop and sharpen their critical thinking skills.

Resource Directory



Wondering which Special Collections or Archival Repositories have holdings (primary sources) related to YOUR topic of interest? These resources might give you that exciting, untold story – or they might just help you deepen your analysis and understanding of your historical question and thesis.

Between these three search tools, students can get a good idea which special collections or archives will have material to check out.  It is a good idea to follow-up on the specific websites for more detailed information:


  • Chicago Collections Consortium - Portal to many of the special collections' holdings that can be found in the city.
  • Black Metropolis Research Consortium Survey - The Black Metropolis Research Consortium Survey serves as a database of collections pertaining to African-American topics.
  • ArchiveGrid - Available through the Chicago Public Library's "Online Resources."  You will need to log-in to use it.


Special collections and other institutions should be used once you do the basic research and have a focused historical question. The more informed a student is by the time she/he seeks these resources, the more helpful librarians and representatives of these organizations can be.

Before calling or going to the organizations, visit the websites. Their websites, especially for the special collections, will give you a lot of vital information: the strengths of their collection (topics, people, events), finding aids, hours open and accessibility (if students are allowed to use the facility and under what circumstances). Most importantly, many institutions are making PRIMARY SOURCES available on the internet so that students can download photographs, maps, and other first-hand documents. Archivists are happy to work with History Fair students.

The phone numbers, addresses, and websites are as up-to-date as possible, but we advise students to first call before going to any of these institutions and organizations. (Additionally, many research centers will be able by appointment only or have specific hours for student researchers.)

The Chicago Metro History Education Center Resource Guide to Historical Collections & Institutions is made possible by a generous grant from the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelly Foundation.


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