Erasing Borders Through Digital Discovery: EXPLORE Chicago Collections as the Foundation for Collaboration Among Libraries, Archives, Museums (and Others)

Tracy J. Seneca (University of Illinois at Chicago), Ellen Keith (Chicago History Museum), and Scott Walter (DePaul University)

In November 2015, Chicago Collections launched its foundational digital project, EXPLORE Chicago Collections, a “one-stop shop” providing access to primary source materials (and expertise) to citizens, students, and scholars with an interest in primary source collections related to the City of Chicago and its people. EXPLORE Chicago Collections provides access to more than 100,000 digital images and more than 4,000 finding aids to archival collections held at Chicago Collections member institutions, including academic libraries, public libraries, museums, historical societies, and other cultural heritage institutions. The initial release of EXPLORE Chicago Collections is not only “foundational” in the sense that work continues on the development of the portal, but in the sense that shared access to primary source content and expertise provides the foundation for a swiftly-expanding array of service programs, including, to date, a cooperative reference service, public exhibitions, public lecture series, professional development opportunities for staff, and a research partnership with Chicago’s public radio affiliate. Chicago Collections members will discuss the design of this new approach to collaboration among cultural heritage institutions of all types across a metropolitan area and describe some of the programs and services currently under consideration for the next phase of its development.

Tracy J. Seneca is Digital Programs and Services Librarian at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and provided leadership for the EXPLORE Chicago Collections digital portal.

Ellen Keith is Director of Research and Access at the Chicago History Museum.

Scott Walter is University Librarian at DePaul University and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Chicago Collections.

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