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Chicago History: The Collected Works

Chicago Collections Consortium will make it easier to research dispersed historical materials

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August 5, 2011 | by Stephen Anzaldi
EVANSTON, Ill. --- A new collaboration that includes Northwestern University Library will feature an online portal to Chicago-focused historical materials housed in 14 separate institutions across the metropolitan area.

The Chicago Collections Consortium, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will give the general public as well as scholars, researchers and students interested in Chicago history much easier access to primary resource materials scattered throughout the city.

The consortium holds colorful clues to the political, cultural and economic stories of Chicago, including personal papers of politicians and activists, records of churches, corporate archives, maps and photographs.

"This is a truly transformative project," said Carl Smith, Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English and American Studies and professor of history at Northwestern University. "It promises to afford dramatically wider, deeper and more effective access to these immensely rich collections."

Besides Northwestern, the consortium includes the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library, Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University Chicago, Newberry Library, Northeastern Illinois University, Roosevelt University, University of Chicago and UIC.

Thousands of shelves and boxes of valuable items are scattered across the city, and researchers doing work at one library or museum may not know about closely related materials in nearby repositories, according to Mary Case, librarian at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and one of the consortium organizers.

"This grant will help us coordinate efforts, link collections and leverage resources -- the keys to making Chicago history easily available to college students, seasoned researchers, school children, amateur historians and the general public," Case said.