Special Collections

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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, only available at the Oak Park Public Library.

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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

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.

Frank Lloyd Wright

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.

Grand Army of the Republic

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.

Local Authors

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

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

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.

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