The Chicago Historical Society, one of America's leading urban history museums, seeks funding to create quality exhibition and storage environments that will ensure the preservation of its unique collections. This project must be undertaken to prevent further damage to collections caused by inefficient HVAC systems that are unable to provide acceptable conditions for the Historical Society's fragile material culture collections.
Since its founding in 1856, the Chicago Historical Society has systematically collected, preserved, catalogued, interpreted, and presented a unique and internationally renowned collection of artifacts and documents that chronicle the history of America from the colonial period to the Civil War and the evolution of Chicago from a 17th-century portage used by Native Americans and European explorers to a modern American metropolis. The collection is one of the largest and most significant bodies of material related to the rise of America as an pluralistic, urban nation.
The Historical Society's material culture collections are represented in its Decorative and Industrial Arts Collection, the Hope B. McCormick Costume Center, the Paintings and Sculpture Collection, and the Charles F. Murphy Architecture Study Center. The collections' unique combination of American and Chicago materials contribute valuable knowledge to the interplay of national and local political, social, economic, and cultural forces that have shaped American life over the last three centuries and made Chicago one of the most historically influential cities in the nation.
This proposal addresses the two most critical aspects of a long-term plan that will improve climate control and consolidate and improve storage of the collections at the Historical Society's Clark Street museum and off-site storage facilities. This proposal presents the most critical phase of environmental improvements to the Clark Street museum and the Broadway Avenue storage facility. The proposed improvements will allow the Historical Society to initiate replacement of outdated 1932 HVAC equipment at the Clark Street museum and the installation of new mechanical systems at the Broadway Avenue storage facility. The 1932 HVAC system, which serves public long-term and special exhibition spaces, is unable to produce adequate year-round humidity control and provide sufficient particulate filtration; it cannot be upgraded. The Broadway Avenue storage facility's climate control is limited to basic freeze protection, but has considerable potential as an off~site storage facility. With the addition of packaged air-handlers, a museum-quality environment can be achieved for its current use as the storage site for vehicles and oversized objects from the Decorative and Industrial Arts Collection and for future use as the Historical Society's primary off-site storage facility
This environmental improvement program will substantially increase the Chicago Historical Society's ability to preserve its material culture collections for continuing use in exhibitions for the education and enjoyment of its visitors.