The Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago Library contains A Century of Progress collection that includes copies of official publications, press releases, souvenir albums, guidebooks, maps, brochures, postcards, photographs, and newspaper clippings. The collection contains approximately 1225 items, most of which were collected by John Crerar Library staff members at the time of the fair. In 1998 the University Library received funding from a private donor and from the University of Chicago Women's Board to digitize and provide access via the Internet to 350 selected items or about 2,000 pages of images and text. This is approximately one-third of the entire collection of material held by the Special Collections Research Center. Selection criteria for the digital project considered the content, physical attributes, and condition of the material. Brochures and pamphlets were chosen for their colorful images, typographical design, format, size, and physical structure. The subjects of transportation, domestic architecture, interior decoration, food and nutrition, and scientific and industrial progress were emphasized in the selection process. Pamphlets about Chicago-area and Midwestern business enterprises and professional associations were identified for inclusion the project.
A Century of Progress database was compiled from three reference checklists published by the John Crerar library between 1933 and 1935. These were not official Century of Progress publications, but rather in-house lists compiled by Crerar staff as part of the Library's bibliography series. Over 3,500 items were briefly described. Items specifically prepared for the fair or for an exhibit's display were included in the checklists. General advertising literature and product price lists were excluded unless specifically prepared for distribution at the fair. At the time these checklists were published most of the material was in the John Crerar Library, the Library of the Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago Public Library. Today, in addition to the holdings at the University of Chicago Library, significant Chicago-area collections are at the Chicago Architectural Foundation, the Chicago Historical Society, the Chicago Public Library, and the Newberry Library. The official set of organizational records of the Century of Progress Exposition is located at the Special Collections Department of the University of Illinois at Chicago Library.
At the web site, http://century.lib.uchicago.edu, the checklist may be searched by keywords or browsed by author, title, or subject. In addition to the brief record, thumbnail images are displayed for those items that have been digitized. Full-sized Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) images may be downloaded to the Adobe® Reader® software. Information about holdings at the University of Chicago is noted in each record. No other web site thus far presents such a large group of A Century of Progress publications from fair exhibitions.
Mr. and Mrs. J. Laurence Costin
The Women's Board of the University of Chicago