Mellon Foundation funds planning of Internet portal to Chicago resources

The University of Chicago Library will participate in an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded project to plan a portal to the Chicago-focused historical collections in 14 area museums, universities and libraries that make up the Chicago Collections Consortium.

Mellon recently awarded $61,000 to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees on behalf of the University of Illinois at Chicago Library, which is leading the effort.

The purpose of the Chicago Portal, a product of the Chicago Collections Consortium, is to enable free and open access through a single search site to collections documenting the history and culture of the Chicago region. This web-based portal will provide access to descriptive information about the many Chicago-related research resources held by CCC members. The Chicago Portal also will provide access to the digitized versions of the contents of these collections when available.


“We are delighted to participate in the planning and implementation of this important project,” said Judith Nadler, Director and University Librarian at the University of Chicago and a member of the consortium’s steering committee. “Integrating our rich UChicago-based collections with the collections of the other participating members and making them openly available through the Chicago Portal will be a boon to scholarship here and around the world.”

The portal will offer a one-click search of the special collections of the University of Chicago Library, Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Public Library, Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University Chicago, the Newberry Library, Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern University, Roosevelt University, and UIC.

Aspects of Chicago’s social, cultural, literary, scientific, economic, political, and architectural history are documented in archives and manuscripts in the University of Chicago Library’s Special Collections Research Center. The records and papers of early 20th-century organizations and social reformers at UChicago include those of the Committee of Fifteen, the Anti-Saloon League and the Chicago Citizens Police Committee, Ida B. Wells, Sophonisba Breckenridge, Edith Abbott, and Marion Talbot. The archives also hold the papers of a generation of University sociologists, most notably Ernest Watson Burgess and his students, who conducted studies of Chicago neighborhoods and ethnic groups.

The Chicago Jazz Archive, and the papers of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse and Saul Bellow—all at UChicago—document the city’s role as a center for literary and musical innovation. The archive of RR Donnelley charts the growth of this printing company from its founding in 1864 as well as the Chicago business, industrial and graphic design communities with which it was engaged. And the Archival Photographic Files Building and Grounds Series includes images of Chicago—and especially Hyde Park—architecture.

Carl Smith, the Franklin Bliss Snyder professor of English and American studies and professor of history at Northwestern University and author of The Plan of Chicago, called this project “among the most promising cooperative ventures by Chicago-area cultural and educational institutions I have seen in my long academic career in the city. It promises to afford dramatically wider, deeper and more effective access to its members’ immensely rich collections. At the same time it will not only make possible but also will actively encourage further cooperation and institutional synergy. This is truly a transformative project in the positive effect it will have on research and education.”