Special Collections curates specific cultural and heritage collections that reflect the unique values and enduring legacies of Oak Park, and employs a Curator of Special Collections and Archivist. Special Collections also makes digital items available through the Illinois Digital Archives, a service of the Illinois State Library and the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, as well as through MDID.
Interested in working with Special Collections? Learn about internship and practicum opportunities >
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs first moved to Oak Park in 1910 and lived here for most of the decade. While living in Oak Park, he completed the first of his Tarzan and his Martian stories. The library collects materials relating to his life and works.
Ernest Hemingway and his family lived in Oak Park. The library has acquired first editions, correspondence, and high school essays. See part of the collection online as part of The Early Years: Ernest and Marcelline Hemingway in Oak Park.
- Ernest Hemingway High School Essay Collection >
- Ernest Hemingway Library Correspondence >
- Ernest Hemingway Rare Book Collection >
- Ernest Hemingway Ephemera Collection >
Frank Lloyd Wright
Many authorities consider Frank Lloyd Wright to be the 20th century's greatest architect. He moved to Oak Park and constructed his home in 1889. Later he built an adjoining studio and moved his practice here. The collections document his life and work in Oak Park and beyond.
- Frank Lloyd Wright Correspondence >
- Gilman Lane Photograph Collection >
- Grant Manson Photograph Collection >
- William Allin Storrer Photograph Collection >
- Frank Lloyd Wright Rare Book Collection >
- Frank Lloyd Wright Ephemera Collection >
- Wasmuth Portfolio >
Grand Army of the Republic
Legends of Our Time Collection
Legends of Our Time was a 1996 oral history project produced in cooperation with Concordia University (River Forest). The series included a mixture of one on one and group interviews, panels, and onsite visits in which long time residents of Oak Park discussed the history of racial diversity in Oak Park. Moderators included Lee Brooke and Roberta Raymond. The original VHS tapes were converted to VHS in the 2010s and are available for checkout. The collection in Special Collections includes original audiovisual materials, transcripts, and supporting documentation.
The Local Authors Collection contains original works and related ephemera from authors and cultural figures from Oak Park.
- Local Authors Correspondence >
- Bernice Clifton Manuscript Collection >
- Mary Estelle Cook Manuscript Collection >
- Raymond F. Daboll Ephemera Collection >
- Gertrude Fox Hoagland Manuscript Collection >
- Paul Allen Holmes Manuscript Collection >
- Regina Zimmerman Kelly Collection >
- Harriette Gillem Robinet Collection >
- Dorothy and Joseph Samachson Manuscript Collection >
- Carol Shields Monograph Collection >
- John St. John Manuscript Collection >
- Robert St. John Manuscript Collection >
- Anna Louise Strong Collection >
Open Housing Movement
The Oak Park Open Housing Movement works to ensure racial diversity in Oak Park. As a result, Oak Park became a national leader in being a free, open, and inclusive community.
Philander Barclay Photograph Collection
- Philander Barclay Photograph Collection: Philander Barclay is known as Oak Park’s first historian. His photographs document people and places of his time.
Scoville Institute and Oak Park Public Library Collection
The Scoville Institute was the precursor to the Oak Park Public Library. The Scoville Institute’s namesake, James W. Scoville, donated funds to erect the first permanent library building in Oak Park. Today, original art glass from the Scoville Institute hangs in the Special Collections Reading Room. The Scoville Institute and Oak Park Public Library Collection includes rare books from the Scoville Institute, interior and exterior photographs and negatives of library buildings, and early correspondence and artifacts.