War may not be good for many things but it does provide a fascinating subject of study. Chicago is fortunate to have an entire institution dedicated to the history of warfare, founded by retired Colonel J.N. Pritzker.
The Library has been one Chicago’s best kept cultural secrets since October of 2003 but as of this year, but a recent relocation will hopefully raise its profile. Formerly in the Gold Coast, the Library has now moved to 104 S. Michigan Avenue, across the street from Millennium Park and the Art Institute. The Library houses an impressive collection of books on martial affairs, spanning over 25,000 volumes, covering multiple cultures and historical periods, with its strongest emphasis on American military history. A special emphasis is placed on the American ideal of the Citizen Soldier, and the role all citizens play in the preservation of democracy. The Library works hard to maintain neutrality in political matters. It doesn’t take stances on particular wars, it honors those who fight them. Admission is $5 to visit and browse, although borrowing books is restricted to dues-paying members. Tours are also available. The collection also includes artwork, posters and photography from every major American conflict, ranging from iconic portraits of the Continental Army of the American Revolution to haunting evocations of World War I trench warfare. Perhaps the prize piece is an actual World War II Congressional Medal of Honor donated to the Library by its recipient.
On Thursday nights, the Library sponsors many events which are open to the public (reservations recommended); these include evenings spotlighting military authors and Medal of Honor recipients. Events are taped at the Library, then broadcast on WYCC. In a time when the study of human conflict is more important than ever, this unique institution may grow to be every bit as prestigious a contribution to Chicago’s cultural and intellectual life as its older neighbors.
Centerstage Reviewer: Rory Leahy