When early Chicagoans founded the original Chicago Historical Society over 160 years ago, when they rebuilt it after two devastating fires, when they came together in 1931 to create a new home in Lincoln Park—they were renewing a commitment to our city. As we prepare the Museum for its next generation, we must invest in an enduring financial foundation, and in our collection of over 30 million artifacts.


The East Basement is not only the largest on-site storage area at CHM’s Clark Street home, with over 17,000 linear feet of shelving, but it is also the storage site for hundreds of thousands of important items that need to be easily discoverable and accessible—for researchers, curators, and the general public alike. The East Basement is now at the end of its 30-year expected life and requires significant renovation for the future. Specifically, we will:

  • Upgrade and modernize the East Basement storage area to provide specialized, state-of-the-art collection care for millions of documents and ensure their long-term preservation.
  • Increase capacity by 50% through modern storage technology. , providing immediate access to significant materials that are currently stored off-site.
  • Improve archival arrangement, description, and housing to provide better collections access and management for both internal and public use.
  • Rebuild the East Basement’s rooftop plaza—an important civic space that will become a part of the new outdoor Chicago History Experience.


Already, CHM has digitized nearly 500,000 pages of archival material, which can be accessed through more than 70 research libraries across the country. But we must do far more in order to meet the tremendous demand from scholars, students, and families of all backgrounds.

By investing in additional service space, staff, and technology, we can dramatically expand these digitization efforts for the years ahead. Our focus will be on high-value materials, including such as Hedrich-Blessing architectural photographs.

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