Free Chicago Museums: Free Days in 2017 at the Chicago History Museum

Are you visiting Chicago or looking for things to do in Chicago in 2017 and maybe check out one the great free Chicago attractions? Come check out the Chicago History Museum, which has some free days in 2017 (see red paragraph below for new free day schedule). Bring the the kids and family to see the excellent historical exhibits. Don’t miss exciting exhibitions such as Shalom Chicago, Magic, Vivian Maier’s Chicago, and Chicago: Crossroads of America.  The Museum’s collection of over 22 million artifacts and documents is a rich source for the study of the history of Chicago as metropolitan urban center that spans five counties, as part of the state of Illinois, and as a part of the broader history of the United States.

Explore the research resources available in each of our eight main collection areas:




Here are the details on how to check out the Chicago History Museum for FREE:


Illinois residents can enjoy free admission to the museum during Illinois Resident 2017 Discount Days. Discount Days at the Museum in 2017 are:

Starting in 2017

Illinois Resident Discount Days
Every Tuesday beginning January 3, 2017, the Museum is free to Illinois residents 12:30–7:30 p.m.


Chicago Authored

Writers, past and present, define the character of Chicago, helping us understand the complexity of the city. Through a multimedia experience in a new café-style space, Chicago Authored features diverse, insightful, and inspiring writing. Explore a collection of works by contemporary authors and the literary giants of past generations. Add your voice by writing a postcard or composing magnetic poetry. Kick back in one of the themed lounge areas to read a favorite Chicago book.

> Learn more


Other Monday Free Options:
View Millions of Dollars at the Free Chicago Fed Money Museum



Open now

Pulled from the darkened shelves and hidden crates of the Museum’s collection storage rooms, we’re finally getting our chance in the spotlight…and we have some pretty remarkable stories to tell.

We’re from around the city, across the country, and throughout history. Some of us have survived the years unscathed, while some are proud of our hard-earned dings and dents. We all have our secrets, and together we’ve made history.

Stop by and see for yourself.

> Learn more

Access for All: Tom Olin’s Photographs of the Disability Rights Movement

Open through March 28, 2016

This exhibition honors the twenty-fifth anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It showcases images by renowned disability rights photographer Tom Olin, who has captured powerful moments from the movement. The nineteen photographs shed light on the disability community’s struggle for equality and inclusion that culminated in the landmark passing of the ADA in July 1990.

The exhibition is on loan from Access Living, a nonprofit disability rights organization committed to fostering an inclusive society that enables Chicagoans with disabilities to live fully-engaged and self-directed lives. Access for All includes the Museum’s first-ever descriptive audio tour for visitors who have low vision or are blind.

Access for All: Tom Olin’s Photographs of the Disability Rights Movement is supported by exhibition sponsor Beatrice Cummings Mayer.

Vivian Maier’s Chicago

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 1960s and 1970s from an entirely new vantage point.

> Learn more

Lincoln’s Chicago

Lincoln was a frequent visitor to Chicago; The city became his second home and political headquarters during his rise to prominence. This gallery features portraits of Lincoln’s contemporaries with lithograph views of Chicago created in the 1860s. The pairings provide a glimpse of the city that Lincoln knew—a dynamic young metropolis on the verge of greatness.

The McCormick Foundation

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is the lead exhibition sponsor of Lincoln’s Chicago. Education funding for Lincoln’s Chicago is provided by JP Morgan Chase and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Abraham Lincoln

As president, Abraham Lincoln faced our nation’s greatest crisis—the Civil War. His resolve to save the Union and radical decision to end slavery transformed America. This intimate exhibition highlights Lincoln’s election in 1860, his leadership during the Civil War, and his tragic assassination. Together these stories honor a great leader whose legacy endures.

The Abraham Lincoln installation is supported by a gift from The Gupta Family with additional support from The Joyce Foundation in honor of Lawrence N. Hansen.

Please note: Abraham Lincoln’s deathbed is currently in Springfield, Illinois, where it is featured in a new exhibition at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Co–curated by CHM’s Olivia Mahoney, Lincoln’s Undying Wordsexamines Lincoln’s evolving views on slavery through five key speeches and related artifacts, several of which are from the CHM collection. Undying Wordsruns through February 2016.

Upcoming Exhibitions

The Mazza Foundation Gallery

Lincoln’s Undying Words

Opens Saturday, April 9

Discover how Abraham Lincoln’s changing views toward slavery transformed America. The exhibition explores this powerful story through five key speeches made by Lincoln between 1858–65. Rare treasures, including Lincoln’s family carriage and the bed in which he died, will be on view, supplemented by an audio program of selected excerpts from the speeches.

Lincoln’s Undying Words is presented in partnership with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. This exhibition includes artifacts from the Chicago History Museum’s renowned John and Jeanne Rowe Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln Collection.

Permanent Exhibitions

The Exelon Wing

Chicago: Crossroads of America

Discover the city’s vast history in Chicago: Crossroads of America. Whether you are interested in Chicago’s changing economy, challenging crises, diverse neighborhoods, groundbreaking innovations, or lively cultural scene, this exhibition is a must see!

Learn more aboutCrossroads and preview highlights


The Great Chicago Adventure

This dynamic film presentation in our newly renovated theater transports visitors through major events in Chicago’s history. Feel the intensity of the Great Chicago Fire and splendor of the World’s Columbian Exposition. Explore the sights of bustling Maxwell Street in the 1950s and peer down from an I-beam of the Sears Tower in the 1970s. Relive Chicago sports victories and cheer on President Obama during his Grant Park victory speech. The film runs 27 minutes; admittance is free with Museum admission.

The theater renovation and film presentation are generously supported by a major grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Additional support provided by ComEd; the State of Illinois Department of Natural Resources Public Museum Capital Grant Program; The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation; and Shure.

Comed Logo

The Guild Gallery

Facing Freedom in America

What does freedom mean? To whom should freedom be extended? How are denied rights gained? These are some of the questions the new American history exhibition explores. Based on the central idea that the history of the United States has been shaped by conflicts over what it means to be free, this new exhibition uses images, artifacts, and interactivity to explore familiar and not-so-familiar stories from the nation’s past. From women’s suffrage and the formation of unions, to Japanese internment, to a local school boycott, the exhibition highlights some of the ways Americans have struggled over the true meaning of freedom.


The Fifth Star Challenge

If Chicago’s flag had a fifth star, what would it represent? Using a gigantic touchscreen, review highlights from the city’s past, cast your vote, and see how your choice stacks up. While in the gallery, explore Chicagoland on our wall-to-wall floor map, which highlights our candidates for the fifth star.

The Museum is grateful to the following donors for making these projects in the updated Naphtali ben Yakov Pritzker American History Wing possible: The Guild of the Chicago History Museum, Allstate, and Marcia S. Cohn and the Jacob and Rosaline Cohn Foundation.

Imagining Chicago: An American City

Our much-loved dioramas have been restored and are better than ever! Visit the Tawani Foundation Diorama Hall to learn the story of Chicago’s rise from a desolate frontier outpost in 1804 to the bustling city that hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Engaging details invite you to look closely and put history into a larger context.


This series of building-wide installations promises to surprise you from the moment you step in the door. Highlights include a 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo lowrider, souvenirs from Chicago’s world’s fairs, and Abraham Lincoln’s deathbed.

> View the lowrider video

Or check out the Chicago: Crossroads of America exhibition. The exhibition Sensing Chicago invites children of all ages to explore the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. Visit the Sensing Chicago gallery to:

  • Ride a high-wheel bicycle down a wood-paved street
  • Hear the Great Chicago Fire
  • Catch a fly ball at Comiskey Park
  • Discover history through your nose with our Smell Map
  • Become a Chicago-style hot dog
  • Create an oversized postcard of your favorite sights to post on the gallery wall or e-mail to a friend



Whether you are interested in Chicago’s changing economy, challenging crises, diverse neighborhoods, groundbreaking innovations, or lively cultural scene, this museum is a must see! The Chicago History Museum cares for, showcases, and interprets millions of authentic pieces of Chicago and U.S. history. The Museum aims to illuminate the past as a reminder of what really happened once upon a time and as a way to shed light on the present, and compellingly inform the future.




1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614


9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.


12:00 noon–5:00 p.m.


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