Home | Plan a Visit | Exhibitions


Costume and Textile Gallery

Chicago Styled: Fashioning The Magnificent Mile ®

Open November 15, 2014–August 16, 2015

Long before North Michigan Avenue was known as the Magnificent Mile, it was called Pine Street. With the completion of the Michigan Avenue Bridge in 1920, North Michigan Avenue quickly became a desired location for high-end shops. Real estate developer Arthur Rubloff, an early champion of North Michigan Avenue credited with coining the moniker “Magnificent Mile,” envisioned it as “the nucleus of a Greater Chicago.”

Chicago Styled features more than twenty ensembles from the Museum’s costume collection to tell the story of the growth of this landmark district. The garments hail from a wide range of retailers: independent boutiques; high-end designer shops; and luxury department stores. The clothes and the buildings on the Mag Mile were considered cutting-edge and innovative and had a symbiotic relationship. As more upscale retailers flocked to the area, developers built impressive structures fit to house them—the John Hancock Center was the area’s first example of a large-scale, mixed-use building, and Water Tower Place was one of the nation’s first and largest vertical malls.

Set against a shifting cityscape, pieces by noted designers such as Norman Norell, Adolfo, Christian Lacroix, Yohji Yamamoto, and Chanel evoke memories of the Mag Mile and the stylish people who shopped there.

> Learn more

Chicago Styled is sponsored by the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum and lead corporate sponsor BMO Harris Bank.

Current Exhibitions



Benjamin Green-Field Gallery

Railroaders: Jack Delano's Homefront Photography

Open through August 10, 2015

Soldiers and civilians, food and supplies, fuel and raw materials—everything moved by rail during World War II (1941–45). America’s railroads were critical to the war effort, and the Office of War Information assigned photographer Jack Delano the job of telling the nation’s rail story in pictures. He focused his lens on the railroaders who kept the industry running, the men and women whose demanding jobs and long hours demonstrated the sacrifices needed to win the war. During the assignment, Delano captured three thousand images, two-thirds in Chicago—the heart of the nation’s rail industry.

> Learn more


KPMG and Paul and Katherine Snyder Community Gallery

Vivian Maier's Chicago

Come witness the life work of a nanny turned photographer that wowed the world with breathtaking images of everyday life in Urban America. Discover Chicago faces and neighborhoods of the 1960s and 1970s from an entirely new vantage point.

> Learn more


Sanger P. Robinson Gallery

Lincoln's Chicago

Lincoln was a frequent visitor to Chicago; The city became his second home and political headquarters during his rise to prominence. This gallery features portraits of Lincoln’s contemporaries with lithograph views of Chicago created in the 1860s. The pairings provide a glimpse of the city that Lincoln knew—a dynamic young metropolis on the verge of greatness.

The McCormick Foundation

The McCormick Foundation is the lead exhibition sponsor of Lincoln’s Chicago. Education funding for Lincoln’s Chicago is provided by JP Morgan Chase and the Terra Foundation for American Art.


Abraham Lincoln

As president, Abraham Lincoln faced our nation’s greatest crisis—the Civil War. His resolve to save the Union and radical decision to end slavery transformed America. This intimate exhibition highlights Lincoln’s election in 1860, his leadership during the Civil War, and his tragic assassination. Together these stories honor a great leader whose legacy endures.

The Abraham Lincoln installation is supported by a gift from The Gupta Family with additional support from The Joyce Foundation in honor of Lawrence N. Hansen.

Please note: Abraham Lincoln’s deathbed is currently in Springfield, Illinois, where it is featured in a new exhibition at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Co–curated by CHM’s Olivia Mahoney, Undying Words: Abraham Lincoln 1858–1865 examines Lincoln’s evolving views on slavery through five key speeches and related artifacts, several of which are from the CHM collection. Undying Words runs through February 2016.


Kovler Family Lobby

Unexpected Chicago

What’s the most surprising thing about a collection made up of millions artifacts? A single artifact! This world-class collection holds the second largest costume collection in the world including clothing and accessories as well as thousands of linear feet of archives and manuscripts that make up the equivalent of forty-nine football fields or twelve Willis Towers. Unexpected Chicago is a way to reveal unexpected treasures of Chicago history a single artifact at a time.

> Learn more about Unexpected Chicago

Unexpected Chicago is supported by a gift from The Jacob and Rosaline Cohn Foundation.

Upcoming Exhibitions


The Secret Lives of Objects

Opens Saturday, March 21

Ask nicely and our artifacts just might tell you their secrets. The Museum invites you to a new exhibition in which objects extraordinary and familiar emerge from our crates, shelves, and vaults to tell their tales. Our vast collection of artifacts, documents, and images tells millions of stories, from sassy to somber, historic to heartfelt, ridiculous to sublime. Join us as we explore a few of them in a dramatic space that spotlights and enlightens. Highlights include Charlie Chaplin’s cane, Nathan Leopold’s glasses, and the Appomattox Court House table.

Chicago Authors

Opening Fall 2015

This fall, we asked Chicagoans which great Chicago story they’d like to see presented as a future exhibition at the Museum. Thousands of you told us your ideas. We identified the sixteen most mentioned topics, and created a three-round tournament for people to choose their favorite.

Thanks for helping us fulfill our mission by sharing the city's stories!

> Learn more

Permanent Exhibitions

Facing Freedom

The Naphtali ben Yakov Pritzker American History Wing

Facing Freedom

What does freedom mean? To whom should freedom be extended? How are denied rights gained? These are some of the questions the new American history exhibition explores. Based on the central idea that the history of the United States has been shaped by conflicts over what it means to be free, this new exhibition uses images, artifacts, and interactivity to explore familiar and not-so-familiar stories from the nation’s past. From women's suffrage and the formation of unions, to Japanese internment, to a local school boycott, the exhibition highlights some of the ways Americans have struggled over the true meaning of freedom.


The Exelon Wing

Chicago: Crossroads of America

Discover the city's vast history in Chicago: Crossroads of America. Whether you are interested in Chicago's changing economy, challenging crises, diverse neighborhoods, groundbreaking innovations, or lively cultural scene, this exhibition is a must see!

> Learn more about Crossroads and preview highlights



Tawani Foundation Diorama Hall

The Dioramas

Our much-loved dioramas have been restored and are better than ever! Visit the Tawani Foundation Diorama Hall to learn the story of Chicago's rise from a desolate frontier outpost in 1804 to the bustling city that hosted the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Engaging details invite you to look closely and put history into a larger context.



This series of building-wide installations promises to surprise you from the moment you step in the door. Highlights include a 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo lowrider, souvenirs from Chicago's world's fairs, and Abraham Lincoln's deathbed.

> View the lowrider video

Document Actions