Chicago History Museum
The Chicago History Museum stands at the crossroads of America’s past and its future. If you live in Chicago or visit here and are curious about the city’s past, present, and future, the Museum should be your first stop.
Your History Lives Here
The Chicago History Museum cares for, showcases, and interprets millions of authentic pieces of Chicago and U.S. history. Our ability to illuminate the past is a reminder of what really happened once upon a time, sheds light on the present, and compellingly informs the future.
We invite you to engage with our stories and make history yourself.
School Field Trips: Chicago History Museum
The Chicago History Museum proudly presents fun-filled, content-rich experiences for students from pre-K to grade 12. Our free field trips align with state and national learning standards.
Book a field trip to visit our original exhibitions. Utilize an audio tour written and performed by local teenagers. Prepare for or follow up on your visit with Great Chicago Stories and our other online resources.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Chicago History Museum.
Your Field Trip Experience
What will my students do? What will my students see?
There’s a lot to do, see, and learn at the Chicago History Museum!
During field trips, teachers and chaperones lead their groups on self-guided experiences through the Museum’s exhibitions. We encourage groups to explore our galleries at their own pace and stop at student-friendly activities along the way.
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Engaging Exhibitions for School Groups
Location: Exelon Wing
Exhibition: Chicago: Crossroads of America
Explore Chicago’s changing economy, challenging crises, diverse neighborhoods, groundbreaking innovations, and lively cultural scene in six galleries.
Location: KPMG and Paul and Katherine Snyder Community Gallery
Exhibition: Vivian Maiers Chicago
Through summer 2013
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 1950s and 1960s from an entirely new vantage point.
Location: Skyline Gallery
Through January 6, 2013
Discover Chicago’s place in American magic. Settle down in the object theater and meet Greta, a little girl who visits a wonderful store hoping to learn a magician’s secrets. Next door, explore a collection of magical artifacts and activities for young magicians that will inspired amazement and delight.
Located in: Konen Family Children’s Gallery
Exhibition: Sensing Chicago
Did you know that history is beautiful, noisy, rough, stinky, and delicious? In this gallery, students can use their five senses to:
Recommended for grades 3 and 4. Due to the popularity of this gallery, special reservations for a 30 minute time slot are required. Please indicate your interest on the field trip reservation form.
Location: Taiwani Foundation Diorama Hall
Exhibition: Imagining Chicago: The Diorama
Visit our beloved dioramas to experience the first 100 years of Chicago’s history. Hands-on activities challenge students to look closely at the scenes, find specific details, and put history into a larger context.
Location: Sanger P. Robinson Gallery
Exhibition: Lincoln’s Chicago
Catch a glimpse of the city Lincoln knew through portraits of his contemporaries and lithographic view of 1860s Chicago.
This exhibition highlights Lincoln’s election in 1860, his leadership during the Civil War, and his tragic assassination in a series of dramatic windows and audio narration.
Location: Kovler Family Lobby
Exhibition: Unexpected Chicago
Through January 6, 2013
What’s the most surprising thing about a collection made up of millions of 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.
Located in: Benjamin Green-Field Gallery
Exhibition: Shalom Chicago
Opens October 21st. 2012
Explore the Jewish community’s rich history and contributions to the city’s growth and development, through personal stories, rare artifacts, and engaging multimedia presentations.
This series of installations promotes exploration throughout the Museum!
Location: Skyline Gallery, Bessie Green-Field Warshawsky Gallery, and Mazza Foundation Gallery
Exhibition: Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair
Opens March 16, 2013
Relive the experience of the Ebony Fashion Fair in this one-of-a-kind exhibition. Explore its fifty-year history, and discover how Eunice Johnson overcame adversity to bring high couture fashion to African American communities, while raising millions of dollars for charities along the way. More than sixty garments, including works by Oscar de la Renta, Christian Dior, Stephen Burrows, Yves Saint Laurent, and Patrick Kelly, help tell the story of this world-renowned fashion show and its redefinition of American beauty.
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Programming for Pre-K to Kindergarten
Crazy for Trains
Pre-K – Kindergarten Self-Guided Gallery Experience
Play in the past with two of our biggest artifacts: ‘L’ Car No. 1 and the Pioneer Locomotive.
Crazy for Trains discovery bags are available for use by teachers and chaperones during a Museum visit. The bags help young children explore transportation history through music, role play, and picture books. Use the field trip reservation form to reserve discovery bags for your group.
Each discovery bag includes:
- One copy of Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis
- One copy of Freight Train/Tren de carga by Donald Crews
- One conductor vest
- One hole punch
- Paper tickets for each child
- Two sets of colored shapes
- Song lyrics, poems, and pictures
- Suggestions for how to use the materials during your Museum field trip
Engaging Programming for School Groups Grades 1-12
History a la Cart
Engage with History
At History à la Cart stations, students to actively analyze and interpret the past. Facilitated by trained staff and volunteers, these 20-minute hands-on experiences are located throughout our galleries.
The Great Chicago Fire
Use an oversized map, icons, photographs and first-hand accounts to trace the events of October 8–10, 1871, and collaboratively tell the story of the fire.
Measure and mark the height and root depth of native plants. Imagine the vastness of the prairie through images and settlers’ accounts.
Imagine living in the famous John Hancock Center. Explore Chicago’s skyscrapers through improvisation and building activities.
Discover objects through touch and discussion, then bring an adjective into the gallery and choose an artifact that matches it. Draw and write about your object, then share your opinion and find out what others think.
Sweet Home Chicago
Welcome to your new home in Chicago! Explore the exhibition Chicago: Crossroads of America, learn all about your city, and work together to create a Mad Lib-style letter about your discoveries.
Create, construct, and test bridges to discover how they work and why they are so important in Chicago’s history.
Map Chicago’s history on this one-of-a-kind gallery hunt. Use a compass and geography skills to connect artifacts to locations on a large, eye-catching map.
History à la Cart Schedule
For more flexibility during your visit, all stations are accessible on a first-come, first-served basis.
Enriching the Gallery Experience
40-minute experiences for grades 6–12
$2 per iPod, advance reservation required
Use the online field trip reservation form to reserve the audio tour for your group.
In Our Own Words
Developed, written, and performed by Lake View High School students, this tour of Chicago: Crossroads of America features original interviews, vintage music, dialog, and dramatic readings on topics such as the Great Fire, Gangland Chicago, jazz and blues, and the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
You can download the tour to any MP3 player in advance of your visit. Download the In Our Own Words teen audio tour (40 MB) Alternatively, you can reserve the Museum’s iPods for use during your field trip: $2 per iPod; advance reservations required. Make a reservation Use the In Our Own Words teacher discussion guide—before and after your field trip—to expand on the topics, artifacts, issues, and historical arguments presented in the audio tour. Download the In Our Own Words teacher discussion guide
Trip Planning Information and Educator Lesson Plans are available for Download
Monday–Saturday: 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Sunday: 12:00 noon–5:00 p.m.
Adults: $14 with audio tours
Seniors (65+): $12 with audio tours
Students (13–22 with ID): $12 with audio tours
Free for children (age 12 and younger)
Free for members of: Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum, and National Museum of Mexican Art.
Admission includes two audio tours: Chicago: Crossroads of America, a tour developed with the Second City (available in English and Spanish) and In Our Own Words, a tour created by local teens (English). Ask for the audio tour at our Visitor Center.
Illinois Resident Discount Days
Illinois residents can enjoy free admission to the museum during Illinois Resident Discount Days. Discount Days at the Museum in 2013 are:
- Monday, January 21
- Monday, February 4–Thursday, February 28
- Monday, March 4
Become a Member of the Museum Today!
Free admission is just one of the many benefits of membership, which also include special members-only events, discounted tickets to tours and programs, a subscription to Chicago History magazine, store discount, and more.
Public parking is conveniently located one block north of the Museum at Clark and LaSalle Streets; enter on Stockton Drive.
Cost: $9 with Museum validation; Visa, Mastercard, and Discover credit cards are accepted.
Accessibility: Specially located spots have been reserved for persons using mobility devices. Call 312.642.4600 for more information.
Museum Dining: North & Clark Café
Stop by the North & Clark Café for breakfast, lunch, a snack, or a cup of coffee. Our affordable menu features regular selections and daily specials, so you can visit often and always try something new!
Monday through Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Sunday: 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m.
Hours are subject to change.
The North & Clark Café features a diverse menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, items from the grill and more. Enjoy breakfast all-day, an assortment of snacks and delicious Intelligentsia coffee and tea. The Café also has a kids’ menu.
For groups of 10 or more, we highly recommend pre-ordering lunch. Learn more
Join the Museum!: Members receive a 10% discount on purchases in the North & Clark Café.
Find the Perfect Gift Shop Now!
In the Museum Store, you’ll find books, DVDs, children’s toys,and more—all relating to Chicago and its history. Delve deeper into the magical White City with Expo: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Curious about the Lincolns? Take a look at Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided, which tells the fascinating story of the Lincoln’s life together, so drop by the store or shop online.
Monday through Saturday: 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Sunday: 12:00 noon–5:00 p.m.
Plan your field trip. It’s easy and free.*
Plan Your Trip. It’s easy and FREE* To schedule your trip, complete our online form, or download and return the reservation form as listed below. Due to the popularity of school group visits, reservations must be made in advance and in writing. Your visit is not guaranteed until you have received a confirmation letter, which should arrive by fax and e-mail (or mail, if requested) in seven to ten days. If you don’t receive a confirmation letter, call 312. 642.4600.
* All Illinois school groups are admitted free of charge. Out-of-state groups are charged discounted admission. See the reservation form for details.
Plan to spend two to three hours at the Museum including lunch. Visits begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
- Request 30-minute lunchroom seating (available for up to grade 8). Students bring their own lunches and beverages; storage provided.
- Indicate the size of your group. Maximum group size is 120.
- Secure chaperones. We require one adult for every ten students in grade 3 and above. For groups in grades Pre-K–2 we require a one adult for every five children. Each adult exceeding these ratios will be charged $7.
- Divide your students into groups of 10 prior to arriving at the Museum. A map of the Museum will be prepared for each group leader.
- Place medical supplies and emergency information in a small hand-held or shoulder bag (please note that backpacks are not allowed in exhibition spaces).
- All Illinois school groups are admitted free of charge. Out-of-state groups are charged discounted admission. See the chart below for details.*
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Field trips to the Chicago History Museum align with state and national standards for literacy, science, and social science.
History à la Cart activity stations
Self-Guided Gallery Activities