Formerly known as the Chicago Historical Society, the Chicago History Museum was founded in 1856 with the purpose of studying and interpreting the history of the city. Unfortunately, much of the original collection burned down in the Great Chicago Fire, but the collection was rebuilt and renewed within a few years. The building that is now currently in use was opened in 1932 and has been renovated over the years to house the Society’s growing collection of manuscripts, paintings, and historical artifacts.
The combination of permanent and temporary exhibitions allows visitors to get a fun and educational perspective about the various ways that Chicago has been impacted by and has had an impact on history. Whether related to music history, authors of poetry and prose, the physical senses, adventure films or contemporary art, the Chicago History Museum inspires young people of today to become innovators of tomorrow.
From sports to politics, from music to architecture, visitors can see Chicago’s story unfold through the use of art, artifacts, activities and programs.
Not to Miss at the Chicago History Museum
- Lincoln’s Chicago is a must-see as the city was a second home and political headquarters for America’s 16th president. This display encompasses portraits that were created in the 1860s which allows the viewer to see Chicago from the viewpoint of Lincoln.
- The Secret Lives of Objects is a permanent exhibit in the museum that explores Chicago’s history (as well as the rest of the nation) through the voices of a collection of objects. For instance, Owen Brown’s Colt Revolver and Charlie Chaplin’s Bamboo Cane.
- Facing Freedom in America shows the generations of Americans who have set out to define, fight for, and defend their freedom. This exhibit shows examples of this through Armed Conflict, Workers’ Rights, Public Protest and Race & Citizenship.
Chicago History Museum Amenities
Some of the helpful services and conveniences offered by the Chicago History Museum include:
North & Clark Café
Have a meal with a side of history at the North & Clark Café. A local gathering spot for neighborhood patrons and museum-goers, the café offers a fresh menu with daily specials such as all-day breakfast, soups, amazing burgers and, of course, the quintessential Chicago-style hot dogs.
The North & Clark café is open Mon-Sat 9:30am-3pm and Sundays 12noon-4pm.
Featuring books, dinner ware, t-shirts, games and other Chicago souvenirs, the Chicago History Museum Gift Shop items are perfect as gifts for locals or visitors alike. Many of the items are specifically made in Chicago, while others feature topics such as civic pride, the Chicago flag, fashion, pet items and even Chicago’s favorite on the go food—hot dogs.
Certain accommodations are made for those in need, including:
- Large-print labels for exhibitions
- English and Spanish captions in most films
- Touch Tours (by appointment)
- Portable assistive listening receivers with headphones
- Sign language interpretation
- Accessible parking and elevator
- Wheelchair use free of charge (first-come, first-served)
- Accessible stage and seating in theater
Chicago History Museum Nearby Attractions
In the Lincoln Park area just north of downtown, the Chicago History Museum is located near these other interesting places to visit:
- Lincoln Park Zoo
- North Avenue Beach
- The Second City Comedy Club
Getting to the Chicago History Museum
1601 N Clark Street, Chicago IL 60614
Getting to the Museum of Chicago History can be easily accomplished by car, bicycle or public transportation.
The Chicago History Museum can be easily accessed from the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94) or Eisenhower Expressway (1-290).
Free street parking may be found on Clark Street or a nearby side street. Public parking is located just a block north of the museum at Clark & LaSalle Streets, with the entrance on Stockton Drive. Ask for a discount with museum validation. Specially located spots are reserved for those with mobility devices.
CTA buses 22, 36, 72, 73, 151 and 156 have stops near the museum. In addition, the Brown Line (Sedgwick Station) and Red Line (Clark/Division Station) are just ½ mile from the museum.
When to Go to the Chicago History Museum
Mon-Saturday 9:30am-4:30pm; Open late on Tuesday until 9pm; Sunday 12noon-5pm
Research Center Hours: Tues-Fri 1pm-4:30pm; Saturday 10am-4:30pm
Chicago History Museum Insider Tips
For access to the Research Center, containing printed material, manuscripts, archives, prints, photographs, architectural drawings and other object related to Chicago, contact the museum ahead of time via email to make an appointment. firstname.lastname@example.org
Reduced or free admission may be available for certain people, including:
- Illinois resident children under 18; Non-Illinois residents age 12 and under
- Armed forces; Chicago police; Chicago fire; Illinois teachers; Pre-registered field trips
- City of Chicago residents
- Members of certain other Chicago museums
- EBT and WIC beneficiaries
- If you are planning on visiting more than 1 tourist attraction during your visit to Chicago, check out the Go Chicago Card and Explorer Pass, both include the Chicago History Museum.