Best Theater History Collection

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Chicago Theater Collection

at the Harold Washington Library Center
400 S. State, ninth floor
312-747-4875

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Located on the ninth floor of the central library, this special collection contains memorabilia dating back almost to the time of the city’s incorporation in 1837. Playbills and scrapbooks document performances at such long-gone venues as McVicker’s Theatre and Crosby’s Opera House, and production budgets, personal correspondence, posters, and reviews chronicle homegrown companies ranging from the Goodman to the Godzilla Rainbow Troupe. Also on hand are archived records of the work of individual artists, and dozens of videos—including one of Gary Sinise and John Malkovich in Steppenwolf’s landmark True Westimmortalizing productions that have helped define contemporary Chicago theater.

Unfortunately, access to this treasure trove is limited. Special Collections is only open Mondays and Tuesdays, noon-6 PM, and Fridays and Saturdays, noon-4 PM.

Occasionally, the library also mounts exhibitions related to Chicago theater. On display through October 3 in the Special Collections Exhibit Hall is Capturing Chicago Theater: 35 Years of Theater Photography by Lisa Howe-Ebright (1974-2009), which features portraits and production shots and is open during regular library hours.