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Chicago Communities Research Guide: General & Secondary References

Developed by Professors Rosie Banks and Todd Heldt, this guide lists and describes print and digital resources about Chicago neighborhoods.

General and Secondary Resources

Academic References

Black Metropolis Research Consortium. University of Chicago. Retrieved from http:// 

This consortium, hosted by the University of Chicago since 2006, seeks to archive all aspects of the black experience in Chicago. There are several searchable databases of artifacts related to the black experience and smaller archiving projects.


Building and House History. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved from http://

This is more of a research and help guide to making the most of the Chicago History Museum’s research center.  Students can find useful information about the history of particular houses or buildings in Chicago.


Caxton Club of Chicago. (2018). Chicago by the book: 101 publications that shaped the city and its image. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

A committee of University of Chicago scholars collectively identified 101 publications that they deemed essential to understanding Chicago. Students might search this to see if there’s a seminal publication that might be related to their topic.


Chicago Collections Digital Exhibits. Explore Chicago Collections. Chicago Collections Consortium. Retrieved from

The Chicago Collections Consortium is a federation of Chicago’s research libraries, research institutions, historical societies, museums and more that have made their Chicago artifacts — or a list thereof — available. The digital exhibits are accessible to students.


Chicago Neighborhood Guide. The Newberry Library. Retrieved from 

This research guide lists books, articles, and certain special and digital collections for Chicago neighborhoods as offered through the Chicago Public Library. 


Chicago Research: Neighborhood Guide. DePaul University. Retrieved from c.php?g=253455&p=1691160

Many of DePaul University’s resources are deeply intertwined with the Chicago Collections Consortium, but this research guide may still be useful. Several of the resources are more easily accessible to DePaul University students.


Chicago Studies. University of Chicago. Retrieved from 

This is the University of Chicago’s research guide to Chicago. While several of the resources are available and accessible online, many of the resources — particularly the print and institutional ones — are difficult to access without University of Chicago affiliation.


Chicago Studies Resource Portal. University of Chicago. Retrieved from https:// 

This is the University of Chicago’s collection of research from undergraduates and graduates on Chicago topics.  They also have specialized pages for Bronzeville, Chinatown, Logan Square, and Pilsen.


Digital Transgender Archive. Retrieved from

This site offers a rich archive of transgendered experience and history. Though not particular to Chicago, this site would make a rich additional resource to the Gerber-Hart Library Archives.  


Explore Chicago Collections. Chicago Collections Consortium. Retrieved from https://

The Chicago Collections Consortium is a federation of Chicago’s research libraries, research institutions, historical societies, museums and more that have made their Chicago artifacts — or a list thereof — available. Members of the Consortium have much easier access, but this site might be useful to identify what archives are out there and where. Students may have a more challenging time gaining access though they do have a help guide to explain what one might need to access an individual institution’s archives or special collections.


Honey Pot Performance. Chicago Black Social Culture Map. Retrieved from https://

This Afro-diasporist feminist collaborative seeks to map and archive Black social spaces throughout Chicago from the early 1900s to today. They have been conducting a series of community archival events and panels.  The map is evolving, but can be found on the site. They are seeking contributors. 


Project Stand: Student Activism Now Documented.  Retrieved from

This is a website highlighting artifacts and information about student activism across the nation. At this time, no community colleges are officially listed as member institutions at this time. There may be a relationship with the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, but that relationship is unclear. This website continues to evolve and seeks contributors as well. 


Reiff, Janice L., Keating, Ann Durkin, and James R. Grossman. Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved from

This website, as the title suggests, contains encyclopedic articles on a number of topics regarding Chicago, including the history of the term “community areas” and all 77 community areas.


The Civil War in Art: Teaching and Learning Through Chicago Collections. Retrieved from http:// 

A collaboration among Terra Foundation for American Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, the

DuSable Museum of African American History, the Newberry Library, the Chicago History

Museum, and the Chicago Park District, this website offers lesson plans at several grade levels

and digitized exhibits of the Civil War experience as it shows up in Chicago and in Chicago based artifacts. The website also offers instructions on how to create lesson plans using artifacts and collections.


The M. Christine Schwarz Collection. Retrieved from 

This is a digitized collection of Chicago artists including Adam Emory Albright and his son Ivan Albright (Edison Park) and William A. Harper, an early African -American landscaper. This is a rich source for students interested in Chicago’s art history.


Urban Studies Program. University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved from program/urban-studies

Since the program focuses on Urban Studies, the scholars and instructors who work within the program may provide a rich resource of experts on various aspects of urban life in Chicago.


Chicago Public Library

Online Resources. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from

The following resources are accessible through Chicago Public Library.  Some require that students enter their Chicago Public Library card information. The City Colleges of Chicago librarians may be able to request items through interlibrary loan for students who cannot access Chicago Public Library resources.


Check Illinois. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from  

To have free access to Illinois Public Records, students need an active library card.


Chicago Defender Historical Archive (1909-1975). Proquest Historical Newspapers. Proquest. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from hnpchicagodefender/index?accountid=303

This is one of the more prominent historical newspapers for African-Americans. Students need an active library card to access it; however, students might also visit the Woodson Regional Library.


Chicago Examiner. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from customizations/global/pages/content.php?id=examiner 

Students need an active library card. The Chicago Examiner is also a historic newspaper.


Chicago Municipal Reference Collection. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from https://

Students can search freely, but some of the resources can only be accessed using an active library card. This perhaps is one of the more important sites for researching data about the city of Chicago aside from the city’s own website.


Chicago Public Library Digital Collections. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from                                                   

This is accessible without a library card. Quite a few of the Chicago community areas have extensive digital collections.


Chicago Sun-Times (IL) 1986-2019. NewsBank, Inc. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from https:// %2529&action=browse 

Students need an active library card.


Chicago Tribune Historical Archive (1849-1994). Proquest Historical Newspapers. Proquest. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from hnpchicagotribune/index?accountid=303 

Students need an active library card.


History Research Center. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from 

Students need an active library card. 


Illinois Newstand. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from

Students need an active library card. This site is important because it contains a variety of current newspapers and Spanish language newspapers, such as La Raza


Illinois Public Records. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from

Students need an active library card. 


Illinois Sanborn Maps. Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved from 

http:// command=AccessOK&CCSI=11073n

Students need an active library card. This source offers historical maps of the city.


City of Chicago

Calumet Open Space Reserve Plan. City of Chicago. Retrieved from dam/city/depts/zlup/Sustainable_Development/Publications/Calumet_Open_Space_Reserve/ COSR_plan.pdf 

This government proposal identifies strategies for preserving open natural space on the southeast side of Chicago around Lake Calumet.

Chicago Park District. Retrieved from

There are three different groups that take charge of Chicago’s natural resources. Chicago Park District is one. Consider wildlife areas, such as Northerly Island and North Pond Nature Sanctuary and more cultivated areas, such as the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool and Humboldt Park Prairie row and boathouse. 

City of Chicago (2019). Chicago Landmarks. Retrieved from landmarksweb/web/home.htm

This website contains a list of all Chicago landmarks as well a description of the process of applying for landmark designation and a virtual tour of landmark buildings.

City of Chicago Data Portal. City of Chicago. Retrieved from

This website perhaps offers a more comprehensive view of all the data that the city is making available to the public; however, it might be wise to continue to check the indivdual sites. 

Community Data Snapshots. Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Retrieved from https:// 

This website contains .pdf form basic information about each of the community areas.  It is an excellent starting place. The only drawback is that the data is from 2016 or 2015 at last check. It is, in a way, a digitized form of the Local Community Fact Books.

Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports. Finance. City of Chicago. Retrieved from

This site is pretty self-evident.

COPA: Civilian Office of Police Accountability. Retrieved from

This contains reports of police activity and oversight.

Forest Preserves of Cook County. Retrieved from

There are three different groups that take charge of Chicago’s natural resources. The Forest Preserves of Cook County is one.  Consider Beaubien Woods (Riverdale) and Powderhorn Lake, Marsh, and Prairie (Hegewisch).

School Data. Chicago Public Schools. Retrieved from 

This site is self-evident.

The Chicago Public Art Guide. City of Chicago. Retrieved from city/depts/dca/Public%20Art/publicartguide1.pdf

This website offers a list of public art throughout Chicago.  It is a great site for those interested in Chicago’s art.


City Colleges of Chicago

Please note that there is an abundance of research and resources at City Colleges of Chicago. This list will be updated as more information comes to light.


Chicago Waterways Project. Harold Washington College

This collaborative multidisciplinary research project focused on various aspects of Chicago’s waterways and included several Harold Washington College professors and administrators.  A physical artifact of their work exists on the 11th floor of the college, and several articles were published. Participants included Dr. Margie Martyn, John Metoyer, Stephanie Burke, Dr. Kristin Bivens, Todd Heldt, Dr. Farah Movahedzadeh, and their students.

City Colleges of Chicago library guides

Dockery, J. Service Learning Director. Truman College. Retrieved from truman/departments/Pages/Service-Learning.aspx 


Heldt, M. (n.d.) LIS 101.  Retrieved from

This website, though not specific to Chicago, offers great guidance to students conducting online research. Much of this material is used in Heldt’s LIS 101 course on information literacy.


McCormack, E.  (n.d.). Humanities Resources Guide to Chicago’s Cultural Institutions: A Starter Kit for HWC and CCC Faculty, Staff, and Students. Retrieved from https://

This website offers not only a list of free and accessible institutions for the humanities students, but study questions and guides for effectively experiencing these sites.


General References

Baer, G. (2019). “Geoffrey Baer tours.” WTTW. Retrieved from

In this television program, sponsored by WTTW, Baer tours distinct areas of Chicago in the following episodes:  “Chicago’s South Side,” “Where in Chicago?,” “Chicago’s Lakefront,” “Chicago’s Loop: A New Walking Tour,” “The Chicago River Tour,” “Navy Pier: A Century of Reinvention,” “Hidden Chicago,” “Hidden Chicago 2,” “Seven Wonders of Chicago,” “Ghost Signs,” “Chicago on Vacation,” “Chicago Time Machine,” “Biking the Boulevards,” “Chicago Stories: The Race to Mackinac,” “The Foods of Chicago: A Delicious History,” and “Chicago by L”. He also has a series called 10 that Changed America in which he highlights Chicago Neighborhood Parks (“Parks”), Marina City, Chicago (“Homes”), the Reversal of the Chicago River (“Modern Marvels”), Pullman, Illinois (“Towns”), and the Robie House (“Buildings”).

Chicago Cultural Alliance. Retrieved from

This organization is a federation of cultural institutions, museums, and historical societies that focuses on the many cultures that make up Chicago. Since some of the cultural institutions and museums are still struggling to find a physical location, the Alliance also offers them the support and the visibility needed to function. 

Chicago Daily Observer. Retrieved from

This website contains journalists’ analyses of local news stories and is refreshed daily.  This might be a good site to check if students are researching hot topics like police brutality or politics, etc…

Chicago Nature Now! Retrieved from

This website seeks to build awareness, literacy, and volunteer activism around Chicago’s natural resources.

Choose Chicago. Instagreeter. Chicago Greeter. Retrieved from

Students can participate in a free one hour tour of the following neighborhoods: Loop, Millennium Park, Chicago Riverwalk, and Uptown.

Corcoran M. & Bernstein, A. (2013). Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100+ years of Chicago and the movies. 2nd ed. Chicago: Chicago Review Press.

This book highlights Chicago’s history with film and film-making.  It identifies lots of former film studios from the earliest film-making era.

Digital Public Library of America. Retrieved from

This free online library is accessible to all and contains digitized collections on a number of topics.  There are 366,749 hits under the “Chicago” topic. While there is a link to the Digital Public Library of America through Chicago Public Library, students can access this site directly. There seems to be a way of contributing as well. 

Dukes, J. & Nagasawa, K. Curious city. WBEZ. Retrieved from

This investigative radio show and website researches and answers questions posed about Chicago’s culture, history, issues, and more. They are open to receiving questions for investigation.

Jones, Z. (2017). Chicago gang history. Retrieved from

True to its title, this website provides in-depth accounts of gangs in Chicago. Jones indicates that he has also written as “Zach AKA Zook” for the site.

Kaplan, J. & Chrucky, S. Forgotten Chicago. Retrieved from   

This website explores Chicago’s “built environment,” especially its less-appreciated features. They are open to contributions.

Library of Congress. Chronicling America. Retrieved from 

This site contains The Broad Ax (1895-1922); The Day Book (1911-1917); and The Chicago Eagle (1894-1920), early Chicago newspapers.  

Mason, J. (2019). Sightseeing. News and Politics. Chicago Reader. Retrieved from keywords=sightseeing&category=66709330,4490755&sortType=recent  

While there are only 4 articles as this seems to be a new column as of 2019, Mason highlights unknown bits of Chicago’s history that may be timely and relevant today.

Ponce, D. (2019). Getting to know Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. WGN. Retrieved from https:// 

Though Ponce confuses neighborhoods with community areas, his show presents a means of showcasing each of the 77 community areas. Thus far, Ponce has episodes on the following 24 community areas: Back of the Yards, Norwood Park, North Lawndale, West Town, North Center, South Chicago, Bronzeville, Logan Square, Albany Park, Garfield Ridge, Avondale, Irving Park, Garfield Park, Calumet Heights (Pill Hill), Galewood, Belmont Cragin, Edgewater, Brighton Park, Hermosa, Dunning, Rogers Park, South Shore, Pullman, and Washington Park.

The Post Family (n.d.). Chicago. On the Grid. Retrieved from

The website, organized by a designer collaborative named Hyperakt, is a compilation of websites designed by other creatives/designers to highlight “creative neighborhoods around the world.” The Post Family, a collective of seven creatives, designed the website for Chicago, which includes the following neighborhood webpages: Albany Park, Andersonville, Bucktown, East Village, Edgewater, Fulton Market, Humboldt Park, Kinzie Corridor, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Loop, Noble Square, North Center, Old Town, Pilsen, River North, Rogers Park,  Ukranian Village, West Loop, West Town, and Wicker Park. While this site primarily identifies North side neighborhoods as creative, similar work might be done with South and West and East side neighborhoods as well.

U.S. General Services Administration (2019). National register of historic places. Retrieved from https://

This website contains a list of the federally designated historic places. This list is separate from that of Chicago landmarks. 

WFMT Radio Network. (2019). Studs Terkel Radio Archive. Retrieved from

This website contains an archive of Studs Terkel radio interviews from 1952 to 1997.