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Explore Chicago Collections

Chicago Collections, a consortium of libraries, museums, and universities with archives covering Chicago history and culture, recently launched its flagship search engine initiative that promotes the holdings of more than 20 member institutions, including a large contribution from Northwestern University Libraries.

As of the October launch, 95 archival collections from Northwestern Libraries are cataloged at Explore Chicago Collections (, joining collections from local participating groups such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Newberry Library and Chicago Zoological Society. This free record-finding tool allows researchers and the general public a centralized interface to browse relevant collections at all participating institutions to locate more than 100,000 maps, photos, letters, and other archival materials.

Northwestern’s contributions to the database include personal and historical records that cover topics as diverse as anti-Vietnam campus protests and student life during the Civil War. The Libraries’ collections include historical documentation on such figures as temperance reformer and suffragist Frances Willard, theater director Frank Galati, political cartoonist John T. McCutcheon, convicted murderers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, early radio soap stars “Clara Lu, ‘n’ Em,” and many others. Though the archive debuted with 95 Northwestern collections, library archivists plan to add more over time.

Chicago Collections aspires to increase public and scholarly interest in the study of the Chicago region’s rich history and culture. Its goal is to unite the resources of its member institutions to offer open access, learning experiences, and research opportunities to the general public, educators, and scholars.