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Prints and Photographs

The Museum's collection contains more than 1.5 million still images and more than 4 million feet of film and video. It is the single largest source of pictorial information for the Chicago metropolitan area from the early 19th century to the present. The still and moving images holdings reflect the creativity of the city's artists, photographers, printmakers, video and filmmakers, and other members of the visual arts community. It also includes an extensive collection of photographic, print, and broadside images related to American history before 1870.


Most of the Museum's Prints and Photographs holdings of still images are available without appointment in the Research Center.

Only a limited portion of film holdings have been transferred to readily accessible reference copies. Advance arrangements must be made to order a reference copy for use in the Research Center.

The staff can also conduct limited research for requests received by mail, email, and fax.

Research inquiries are answered in the order received, please allow several weeks for a reply. Due to the number of inquiries we receive, we cannot undertake extensive research. We may, however, be able to provide better service if you visit the Research Center. Patrons who cannot visit in person may wish to hire a freelance researcher.

> Contact the Research Center

> Download a list of freelance researchers


The Museum is pleased to offer photographic reproduction and licensing services for those wishing to obtain or use reproductions of the Chicago History Museum’s collection materials.

Please note that some collections are restricted to reference use in the Research Center only and cannot be ordered for personal or commercial use.

> Learn more about Rights and Reproductions

Types of Still Images

  • Prints, including etchings, engravings, and lithographs
  • Photographs, including cabinet cards, cartes de visite, cased images, stereocards, paper prints, negatives, and digital image files
  • Broadsides and posters
  • Postcards

Highlights of Still Image Holdings

  • Lithograph of Joseph Cinquez on the Amistad, 1839
  • The Bloody Massacre Perpetuated in King Street, Boston, On March 5, 1770, first state, hand-colored engraving by Paul Revere, 1770
  • The Battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775, hand-colored engraving by Amos Doolittle,
  • Declaration of Independence, first state, first printing by John Dunlop, Philadelphia, July 4, 1775
  • An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio, July 13, 1787, first printing
  • Photographic views of the World’s Columbian Exposition by C.D. Arnold, 1893
  • Civil War photographs by George Barnard, Alexander Mathew Brady’s studio, 1860–65
  • Photographs of neighborhoods and buildings from the Chicagoland-in-Pictures project affiliated with the Chicago Area Camera Clubs Association (CACCA), 1948–2005
  • Architectural photographs by professional photographers, including J.W. Taylor, W.T. Barnum, Barnes-Crosby, Clarence John Laughlin, Kaufmann & Fabry, and Raymond Trowbridge
  • Hedrich Blessing architectural photography, 1928–80
  • Engravings and lithographs by Currier and Ives, Raoul Varin, Kurz and Allison, and Edwin Whitefield
  • Original cartoons by John McCutcheon
  • Archive for the photographic documentation project Changing Chicago, 1988–89
  • Photographs of labor unions, including the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Chicago Federation of Labor
  • Prominent Chicago photographers, including Rus Arnold, Gordon Coster, Stephen Deutch, Arthur Siegel, and Nathan Lerner
  • Collections of social welfare agencies, including settlement houses (Association House, Chicago Commons, Gads Hill Center), Infant Welfare Society, Jewish Community Centers, United Charities, Visiting Nurse Association, and the YMCA
  • Claude A. Barnett and the Associated Negro Press, 1890–1969
  • Photographs and prints related to the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893 and A Century of Progress International Exposition, 1933–34
  • Chicago Daily News newspaper photo morgue, 1901–78
  • Southtown Economist newspaper photo morgue

Film and Video

The Burr Tillstrom Collection

The Burr Tillstrom Collection constitute the primary extant holdings of films and photographs relating to the career of Burr Tillstrom, master puppeteer and creator of the Kuklapolitan Players, as well as the long-running television program Kukla, Fran and Ollie. The holdings include:

  • Several hundred films and kinescopes of the early television programs
  • Films and videotapes of later KFO specials, productions, and performances
  • Photographs

Additional Tillstrom materials are found in the Archives and Manuscripts and the Decorative and Industrial Arts holdings.

WGN Newsfilm Collection

This collection includes aircuts and outtakes from WGN television newscasts from approximately 1948 to 1977. Chicago news includes:

  • Public, cultural, and sports events
  • The Chicago Transit Authority, mass transit, and O'Hare International Airport
  • Accidents, disasters, and fires
  • Education, public housing, Mayor Richard J. Daley, politics, and government
  • The civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.

National news includes NASA and the space program, primarily related to the Apollo missions.

Use and transfer of WGN newsfilm requires a written letter of permission from the Tribune Company. For more information, contact Rights and Reproductions.

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