The brand-new Explore Chicago Collections online portal unites Chicago’s many archival collections, providing genealogists with greater access to Chicago history.

Explore Chicago Collections online with this free portal containing a search engine and record-finding tool for Chicago primary sources and archives.. Explore Chicago Collections online lets researchers, genealogists, teachers, students, and the public search in one location to find or access over 100,000 maps, photos, letters, and other archival materials held at 21 member organizations. Member institutions include the Chicago History Museum, the Newberry Library, Alliance Française de Chicago, and others.

Rather than search at each institution, users can browse an enormous wealth of digital material by topic, neighborhood, city, and more. Additional resources available coming up through the Explore Chicago Collections online site include library guides, a virtual reference desk, educational materials, and eventually, digital exhibits, and more.

A $194,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was awarded to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Library, which has led the development of the website in partnership with Chicago Collections. “Explore Chicago Collections, through the power of technology and the research expertise of librarians and archivists across the Chicago region, will greatly enhance the digital research environment,” said David Spadafora, President of the Newberry Library and Chair of the Board of Chicago Collections. “The portal unites the archives of several premier cultural institutions, creating a space within which users may make cross-institutional connections that were impossible before. We are very grateful to The Mellon Foundation for making it possible for us to tangibly connect the past and present and promote scholarship and learning.”

The venture promises to benefit knowledge-seekers beyond the academic and geographic boundaries of Chicago, empowering anyone with an interest in Chicago’s historical development with the ability to more fully investigate the primary sources documenting that development. “Explore Chicago Collections will permit users to discover historical resources in ways that are nearly impossible today — resources that are not meant to be contained, and that belong to all of us,” remarked Jaclyn Grahl, Chicago Collections Executive Director.

When I searched my grandparents’ old neighborhood, Austin, I found some interesting collections worth exploring:

Explore Chicago Collections online

Easy to navigate, great content, logically organized, a clean interface, and free – all reasons to give Explore Chicago Collections online a try.