Chicago History Museum

No votes yet.
Please wait...

The recently renovated Chicago History Museum is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on the city’s North side. Its collection of artifacts and exhibitions collectively tells the epic story of Chicago through the lens of its past, present, and future. Formerly known as the Chicago Historical Society, both adults and children will find enrichment through this modern museum’s permanent and rotating exhibits.

History

The Chicago Historical Society was founded in 1856 with the sole purpose of collecting artifacts and interpreting the history of the city of Chicago. However, many of their earliest pieces were destroyed along with the city itself in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The most notable of these was a handwritten copy of the Emancipation Proclamation penned by Abraham Lincoln himself.

After the fire, the society redoubled its efforts in preserving the city’s history by collecting new artifacts and storing them at the law offices of J. Young Scammon. Unfortunately, these new pieces were destroyed by fire once again in 1874. At that point, the society constructed a fire-proof building at 632 North Dearborn Street, determined to never lose its holdings again. The new building opened officially in 1896.

The society operated from its Dearborn Street location for another 35 years before moving once again to its present location in Lincoln Park. The original building at North Dearborn Street, with its impressive Richardsonian Romanesque features, still stands, though, and entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1978; it is currently the home of the Excalibur Nightclub.

The tenure of the Chicago Historical Society in Lincoln Park has been long, prosperous, and far more productive than it was on North Dearborn Street. Over the decades, many changes to the society have been weathered well and the Chicago Parks District has proven to be a huge supporter of the Society’s efforts.

The original Lincoln Park building, constructed in 1932, was done in the Federal style. It has been notably expanded to accommodate the museum’s growing collection twice since that time. First, the building added a limestone addition designed by Alfred Shaw in 1972. An additional red brick wrap and underground expansion meant to unite the other two areas was then designed by Holabird and Root in 1988. Most recently, a massive interior renovation, which included the renaming of the Historical Society to the Chicago History Museum, took place in 2006 as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the Society.

Today, the building at 1601 North Clark Street features over 22 million holdings. It features permanent exhibitions such as Chicago: Crossroads of America, rotating exhibits, and an extensive research library fit for everyone from elementary students to Hollywood filmmakers and PhD candidates.

Main Attraction

The Chicago History Museum strives to be a beacon of cultural education for and about the city of Chicago. As such, it has designed itself for the entertainment of young children alongside the enrichment of scholars and history buffs. Its galleries include several sections dedicated to Illinois’ most famous son, Abraham Lincoln, as well as the one-of-a-kind Unexpected Chicago exhibit, which is home to the world’s second-largest collection of costumes.

In addition to touring the galleries and looking up information in the archives, visitors to the Chicago History Museum can also engage with several different, rotating programs. The museum features family events on a monthly basis as well as classroom resources, student programs, and professional development workshops for educators.

The museum itself is open every day and offers admissions discounts to students ages 13-22 and seniors aged 65+. Children under 12 are admitted free and two separate audio tours are included with each admissions ticket. Residents of the state of Illinois are also given free admission periodically throughout the year on what are known as Resident Discount Days.

Additional features include a museum store as well as the opportunity to purchase breakfast, lunch, snacks, and coffee at the North & Clark Café, both of which can be accessed outside of the museum itself.

Why It’s a Must-See

As the Midwest’s largest and most infamous city, Chicago has a long and interesting story to tell its visitors. For over 150 years, the telling of that story has rested in the hands of the Chicago Historical Society and the Chicago History Museum. From the deathbed of Abraham Lincoln to oral histories, films, and art, the holdings of the Chicago History Museum have the ability to tell a truly unique story that will endear this amazing city to visitors and residents alike even more than its fantastic streets and other attractions already do.

Where to Buy It


There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Chicago History Museum either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. The Chicago History Museum is available on the Go Chicago Card.