Online portal offers access to area libraries, museums

Nobel Peace prize winner Jane Addams, right

UIC Library resources in the Chicago Collections Consortium portal include materials from Hull-House and its founder, Jane Addams (right). Photo: UIC Library Special Collections

A $194,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will fund software development led by UIC for a free, easily accessible online portal to materials on Chicago history in at least 12 libraries and museums.

The portal will allow one-click searching of materials at UIC, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Public Library, Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University Chicago, Newberry Library, Northwestern University, Roosevelt University and University of Chicago.

“This portal will offer unprecedented access for students, scholars and citizens to information about diaries, photographs, letters and other original materials from those who shaped Chicago’s history,” said Mary Case, UIC’s university librarian.

Case chairs the Chicago Collections Consortium, a group of universities, libraries and museums allied to share collections via the portal.

With thousands of shelves of materials scattered across the city, researchers at any one institution might miss important connections among the holdings, she said.

“All the institutions have primary resource materials in multiple formats that tell the political, cultural and economic history — personal papers of politicians, artists, activists, folk heroes and prominent citizens,” she said.

Consortium institutions collaborate on individual requests, but will be able to better serve thousands of people through the online portal, Case said.

For example:

• A Princeton University professor finishing a book on the Great Society sought an image of Illinois politician Charles Percy from the 1966 campaigns. The consortium retrieved one within 24 hours.

• An Ohioan traveled to Chicago to do research for a biography of family member Katherine Whitney Curtis, who originated synchronized swimming. Curtis’ papers are held by a consortium member and a visit was scheduled immediately.

• When Cook County began inventorying its historical archives, staff sought the consortium’s help to plan collection development, preservation, access and education. UIC librarians referred them to the Illinois State Archives.

This is the second award from Mellon Foundation to support UIC and the consortium. A 2011 grant funded planning of the project and established the consortium as a nonprofit organization.


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