CHM director of Research and Access Ellen Keith recounts the milestones and achievements of Explore Chicago Collections in its first year. She recently spoke about it at the Bucknell University Digital Scholarship Conference.
Did you know that the Chicago History Museum is one of the founding members of the Chicago Collections Consortium? This organization of libraries, museums, and archives has significant holdings about Chicago history and has doubled in size since its inception in 2012—from twelve to twenty-four members. Membership has many benefits, and one of the best is inclusion in Explore Chicago Collections (or EXPLORE).
EXPLORE allows the public to search archival collections and digital images held by member institutions. This online catalog went live on October 22, 2015, and has had over 58,000 unique visitors and more than 419,000 page views its first year. In the Museum’s Research Center, it has made our work so much easier. We are frequently asked, “If you don’t have this, then who does?”—a question that’s been difficult to answer until now. Within weeks of the launch of EXPLORE, our staff was able to direct a History Fair student to a collection at Northwestern University, point a graduate student from Princeton University to a collection at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lead a student in New York to Polish collections across the consortium. Not only can we help researchers more efficiently, but we’re also increasing our knowledge of member holdings. And, our own collections get more exposure. Win-win-win!