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Chicago City Government Records


This guide was created by librarian Edward Remus and historian Joshua Salzmann with grant funding from the Consortium of Academic Research Libraries of Illinois (CARLI). The project was inspired by the late Associate Dean of Northeastern Illinois University's Ronald Williams Library, Dave Green. Dave Green recognized that many Chicago City government documents with great value to researchers were dispersed among various archives and that few people understood how those records fit together. Green raised three questions that this guide seeks to answer: What city government documents exist? Where are those records kept? How can researchers find and use them?

It would not have been possible to create this guide without the help of dedicated experts. In the early stages of the project, Christina Cogswell (Librarian, Northeastern Illinois University) conducted research to better understand the structure of City government and locate collections of its documents. Christina's inquiries led to Lyle Benedict of the Municipal Reference Desk at the Harold Washington Library Center. A leading authority on city records, Benedict generously shared lists that he and his colleagues had compiled of City agencies and personnel throughout Chicago's history. Those lists are included in this guide. Emiliano Aguilar Jr., a Ph.D. Candidate in History at Northwestern University, conducted diligent research to compose the guide's page on City courts.

In order to capture for posterity the insights of Benedict and others who have extensive knowledge of the records of Chicago city government, this guide contains a series of interviews recorded and edited by the videographer Carrie Graham. The librarians and archivists who shared their insights on film include: Ellen Keith and Julie Wroblewski of the Chicago History Museum; Dan Harper and Benjamin Aldred of University of Illinois at Chicago Special Collections; Lyle Benedict and Sarah Erekson of the Harold Washington Library Center; Paul Hughes of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository; and Elisabeth Wittman of the City of Chicago Office of the City Clerk.

Elisabeth Wittman also lent crucial, off-camera support to the project. She helped locate and explain how to use the massive index to the Chicago City Council Proceedings Files. Dave Joens, Director of the Illinois State Archives, offered crucial administrative support and advice. Historian Ann Durkin Keating wrote a letter in support of funding the project. The Information Technology Coordinator at the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, Andrew Bullen, offered crucial historical and technological insights at various stages in the project. Librarian Geoff Brown and Associate Dean Lisa Wallis of Northeastern Illinois University's Ronald Williams Library also lent technical support.

This guide represents the answers of many experts to the questions posed by Dave Green. We hope that it helps to honor his memory by assisting researchers.