If you’re fascinated by the battles our country has fought, the people who’ve fought them, and about the intersection of history, culture, and international affairs, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library is a can’t-miss Chicago destination for you.
Located on S. Michigan Ave. right across from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago, the beautiful Pritzker Museum & Library is home to an extensive, ever-growing collection of more than 90,000 books, periodicals, archival materials, journals, rosters, and other primary-source documents on military affairs and history. Some are quite rare. The resources here come in both digital and print forms, and span many topics. This is a great place to do genealogy research, learn about resources available to veterans, and access rare books on military history and affairs.
Permanent exhibits include the Medal of Honor gallery, highlighting the individuals who have received the United States’ highest award for valor in combat. Highlights include WWII W.S. Marine Corps veteran Hershel “Woody” William’s citation and presentation Medal of Honor. Visitors can also view a rotating gallery featuring the collections of soldiers from every branch of the U.S. military. Special exhibits take place here regularly, allowing visitors to learn about specific parts of our military’s history.
One of the current exhibitions that’ll run through 2018 is “Lest We Forget: Sailors, Sammies, and Doughboys Over There in World War I,” which explores the experiences of those who served in the Great War and the role the U.S. played in the conflict. You’ll learn about this time through maps, photographs, posters, rare books, artifacts, and even film footage from the front lines. The audio tour based on letters, journals and oral histories recreates in the soldiers’ own words what they went through overseas.
The museum hosts a range of events, too. You can come on Saturday afternoons for military-history themed matinee movies, which are free with admission. Authors and other lecturers come regularly to speak about many topics of interest to military history buffs, and programming occurs as part of the Museum & Library’s two original public television series, “Pritzker Military Presents” and “Citizen Soldier,” which airs locally on WTTW and WTTW Prime.
Although there’s nothing like taking advantage of the exhibitions and the comfortable library spaces in person, you don’t actually have to come into the actual museum to take advantage of some of the Museum & Library’s resources. The website hosts online-only exhibitions, including a micro-site focusing on the Vietnam War. It even offers streaming video from past episodes of its television series.
The Pritzker Military Museum & Library has created an internationally recognized institution for learning about military history – right there on Michigan Avenue. It’s easy to get lost in the sights, sounds, and words from past events. If you think this is a place you might like to spend a few hours of your Chicago visit, you should definitely check it out. You can even rent out the space for private events. The lecture hall and broadcast center, conference rooms on the fourth floor, the gallery, and the Point on the main level offer a multi-use space for receptions, dinners, educational events, and much more – all with a lovely view of downtown Chicago.
The museum is located at 104 S. Michigan Ave. and is open seven days a week. The cost is just $5 for admission, although active military, Chicago fire and police representatives, and children under 18 are free. Free days are offered to the public throughout the year on important dates in military history, as well. Tours are given at 11 a.m. daily except Sundays. For more information and a virtual tour, visit www.pritzkermilitary.org.