In 2006 the Chicago Historical Society re-branded itself as the Chicago History Museum in honor of 150 years of impressively chronicling the city. The new era begins in the lobby, where street signs of notable intersections dangle over a classic low-rider car.
Past the coat check and audio iPod reservation desk is a year of reconstruction realized. The "Chicago: Crossroads of America" permanent exhibition brings the city timeline to life in five sections, from pre-incorporation prairie town to today's sophisticated metropolis. A running narrative relating how Chicagoans lived and adapted to a changing world accompanies regional relics, including revolutionary era weaponry, a stock ticker and Chicago Bulls championship memorabilia.
Temporary exhibits highlight talented folks based in the Second City, such as artist Ed Paskche and designer Christian Dior. Fans of the old space will be thrilled to find the Lincoln exhibits and dioramas of Chicago scenes still in-tact. Chicago students and scholars will revisit over 22 million artifacts and the extensive library in the Museum's Research Center.
As the city transformed, so the Society evolved. Originally built as a modest Gold Coast facility at the turn of the 19th Century, the current Georgian-style space, constructed at the edge of Old Town in 1932, has gradually expanded over the last four decades. Partnerships with WTTW and Chicago Public Radio bring capsules of local history into our living rooms, as museum officials regularly provide perspective and background on local news programs.
The museum also invites groups to pay tribute to Chicago history by booking their events at The Chicago Room, a state-of-the-art, architecturally traditional 4,850 square-foot space overlooking the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park's greenery.
Admission: $14 for adults, $12 for seniors & students, free for children 12 and younger. Mondays are free. Parking: $8 with museum validation.
Centerstage Reviewer: Justin Sondak