Special Collections curates specific cultural and heritage collections that reflect the unique values and enduring legacies of Oak Park, and employs a Curator for Special Collections and Archivist. Many items are available through the Illinois Digital Archives, a service of the Illinois State Library and the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State. 

To view materials at the Main Library, contact Leigh Tarullo at ltarullo@oppl.org and/or 708.452.3467. To learn more about collections overall, explore the library's  collection strategy statement.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs first moved to Oak Park in 1910 and lived here for most of the decade. Early in his tenure here, he completed the first of his Tarzan and his Martian stories, and by 1918 the first of the Tarzan movies had been produced. The library collects materials relating to him and to his works.

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs Rare Book Collection: First and rare editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs, including Tarzan, the Barsoom series, and other works of fiction.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs Clipping Collection: Clippings, correspondence, and ephemera from local celebrations of Tarzan and Burroughs.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway and his family lived in Oak Park. The library has acquired first editions, correspondence, and high school essays.

  • Learn more about Hacking Hemingway: Cracking the Code to the Vault and  The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park.
  • Ernest Hemingway High School Essay Collection: Essays written by Ernest Hemingway while he was a student at Oak Park and River Forest High School. See the collection as part of The Early Years: Ernest and Marcelline Hemingway in Oak Park.
  • Ernest Hemingway Library Correspondence: Correspondence to and from Oak Park Public Library Hemingway wrote as an adult. Includes letters regarding library speaking engagements.
  • Ernest Hemingway Rare Book Collection: First and rare editions of Ernest Hemingway and criticisms of his work.
  • Ernest Hemingway Ephemera Collection: Binders of photographs, biographical information and other ephemera collected by community members, library staff, and those who knew Hemingway.

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.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright Correspondence: Correspondence and ephemera from his Oak Park office dating from the 1880s.
  • Gilman Lane Photograph Collection: The Gilman Lane collection has more than 700 photographs of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and others in Oak Park, River Forest, and other areas of the United States and beyond, representing over 150 buildings. Lane took and collected photographs over the span of several decades and was an original member of the Oak Park Camera Club. He also taught industrial arts at Oak Park River Forest High School from 1923-1957. The photographs were given to the Oak Park Public Library after Lane's death in 1961.
  • Grant Manson Photograph Collection: Chicago native and architectural historian Grant Manson, known as an authority on Frank Lloyd Wright, took photographs between 1937 and 1941 while he was researching his doctoral dissertation titled Frank Lloyd Wright's Work Before 1910. This thesis became the basis of his best known work Frank Lloyd Wright to 1910- The Golden Age (1958). Manson taught fine arts and architecture at several universities throughout his career. The Grant Manson Collection includes over 350 photographs of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and others. He also donated copies of correspondence and handwritten notes related to his publications. Manson gave the photographs and other materials to the Oak Park Public Library in July 1973.
  • William Allin Storrer Photograph Collection: The William Allin Storrer Collection includes over 2,300 photographs of virtually all of the buildings that Frank Lloyd Wright designed in his career. Storrer has made it his goal to research, identify, and catalog Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings, assigning each building a unique number - a Storrer number. His two books, The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog and The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion, represent the achievement of that goal. Access to these photographs, which were taken by, or acquired by, Storrer in compiling his books, was first given to the library in June 2008, with several additions.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright Rare Book Collection: Rare books by or about Frank Lloyd Wright and his work, including a first edition of his autobiography and international works.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright Ephemera Collection: Over 18 binders of photographs, correspondence, clippings, and other materials related to his career and family compiled by Oak Park Public Library Librarian Florence Moyer.  The volumes are arranged by state and/or subject. Includes photographs of buildings designed by Wright taken by the owners.
  • Wasmuth Portfolio: The Wasmuth Portfolio was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first published worked completed in 1910 and published in Germany in 1911. The Library acquired its copy of the Wasmuth in 1969. This particular copy was owned by John Lloyd Wright and is inscribed to him.

Grand Army of the Republic

  • Two bound volumes containing a wealth of information about local veterans who fought in the Civil War. One volume contains War Sketches- biographical information on those who served including rank, dates of service, assignments, and death dates. The other volume contains formal portraits of the veterans.  Learn more about the library's oldest items.

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.

Local Authors

The Local Authors Collection contains original works and related ephemera from authors and cultural figures from Oak Park.

The Local Authors Correspondence Collection is the genesis of the Library’s Special Collections. Reference librarians as far back as the late 1880s wrote to local authors and creators, seeking biographical information, photographs, and examples of their work. Today, these binders contain clippings, correspondence, photographs and other printed ephemera from approximately the 1880s-1960s.

Oak Park author and lecturer Bernice Clifton was one of the first people in Chicago area to have a seeing eye dog. After losing her eyesight in 1938, Clifton continued to work as a window designer for an Oak Park department store, as well as lecturing and writing. The collection includes a typewritten and hand corrected manuscript of her first biography, None So Blind (1962).

Mary Estelle Cook Manuscript Collection: One of Oak Park’s most famous residents, Cook was a founding member of the 19th Century Women’s Club and served on the board of trustees of the Scoville Institute for several decades. She taught at Austin High School and was actively engaged in social and cultural causes in Oak Park. The collection contains the original manuscript of the book Little Old Oak Park, one of the earliest histories of the area.

Raymond F. DaBoll was a Chicago-area calligrapher and designer.  Some of his work included designs for Oak Park institutions. The collection contains programs and other ephemera that contain examples of his work.

  • Gertrude Fox Hoagland Manuscript Collection: Gertrude Fox Hoagland wrote one of the earliest histories of Oak Park. The collection contains an original manuscript of the 1937 WPA Historical Survey of Oak Park.
  • Paul Allen Holmes was a noted journalist and author who wrote for the Chicago Tribune from 1941-1966. He moved to Oak Park in 1959 and served on the school board in the 1960s. His most famous book was The Sheppard Murder Case, which was a bestseller and contributed to changing national opinion on the case. The collection includes corrected manuscripts of The Sheppard Murder Case, an analysis of one of the most famous murder trials of the last century.

    Corrected manuscript of Chicago: The Big Shouldered City.

    Harriette Gillem Robinet is best known for historical fiction in which she portrays African-American children and adults living in pivotal times in U.S. history. Her works have won numerous awards, including the Carl Sandburg Award, the Scott O'Dell Award for children's historical fiction, and the Jane Addams Award. The collection contains first editions of her work.

    Joseph Samachson was an accomplished research chemist who also wrote freelance stories for science fiction magazines and scripts for DC comics in the 1940s-1950s, often writing under the pseudonym William Morrison. Dorothy Mirkin Samachson was a professional pianist, accompanist, and music teacher. Dorothy and Joseph Samachson married in 1937, and moved to Oak Park in the 1960s after working for many years in the Chicago area. Joseph and Dorothy Samachson wrote numerous works together on the arts and archeology. The collection contains manuscripts of several of their works on the arts, including The Fabulous World of Opera and The Masters of Music.

    Carol Shields, born and raised in Oak Park, is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Stone Diaries. Her works have won numerous other important awards and nominations. When visiting Oak Park in the 1990s, Carol Shields talked about her childhood and attending storytimes with Mrs. Adele Maze, for whom the Maze Branch Library is named. The collection contains first edition books donated by the author.

    John St. John was born and lived in Oak Park until he attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington. A painter, he was perhaps best known for his many public murals. The collection contains correspondence, speeches, clippings, and prints.

    Author, broadcaster, and journalist Robert St. John was born in Chicago.  His family later moved to Oak Park, where he attended Oak Park River Forest High School the same time as Ernest Hemingway.  The collection contains original manuscripts of some of his famous works, including Ben-Gurion: the biography of an extraordinary man and They Came from Everywhere.

    Journalist and activist Anna Louise Strong received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1908. In the same year as her graduation, several of her works were published in Oak Park.  The collection contains clippings, reproductions, and vital information on the author.

    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

    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.