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: 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.
  • Ernest Hemingway Library Correspondence: Correspondence to and from Oak Park Public Library.
  • Ernest Hemingway Rare Book Collection: Rare editions of Ernest Hemingway and criticisms of his work.
  • Ernest Hemingway Ephemera Collection: Binders of photographs, early correspondence and artifacts.

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 from his Oak Park office.
  • 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. The photographs were given to the Oak Park Public Library after Lane's death in 1961.
  • Grant Manson Photograph Collection: Architectural historian Grant Manson took photographs between 1937 and 1941 while he was researching his doctoral dissertation titled Frank Lloyd Wright's Work Before 1910. The Grant Manson Collection includes photographs of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and others. 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 2,361 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. These photographs, which were taken by, or acquired by, Storrer in compiling his books were given to the library in June 2008.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright Rare Book Collection: Rare books by or about Frank Lloyd Wright and his work, including a first edition of his autobiography.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright Ephemera Collection: Binders of photographs, correspondence, clippings, and other materials related to his career and family compiled by Oak Park Public Library Librarian Florence Moyer.  Includes photographs of buildings designed by Wright from the owners.

Grand Army of the Republic

Legends of Our Time Collection

  • Legends of Our Time was a library sponsored oral history project focusing on the history of racial diversity in Oak Park. The collection includes oral histories on VHS and DVD. Includes transcripts.

Local Authors

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

  • Local Authors Correspondence:  Binders of clippings, correspondence, photographs, and other ephemera from local authors.
  • Bernice Clifton Manuscript Collection: Oak Park author and lecturer Bernice Clifton was one of the first people in Chicago area to have a seeing eye dog. The collection includes a typewritten and hand corrected manuscript of her first biography, None So Blind.
  • Mary Estelle Cook Manuscript Collection: Contains the original manuscript of the book Little Old Oak Park.
  • Raymond F. Daboll Ephemera Collection: Raymond F. DaBoll was a Chicago-area calligrapher and designer.  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 Historical Survey of Oak Park.
  • Paul Allen Holmes Manuscript Collection: Corrected manuscripts of The Sheppard Murder Case, an analysis of one of the most famous murder trials of the last century.
  • Regina Zimmerman Kelly Collection: Corrected manuscript of Chicago: The Big Shouldered City.
  • Harriette Gillem Robinet Collection: 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.
  • Dorothy and Joseph Samachson Manuscript Collection: Manuscripts of several of their works on the arts, including The fabulous World of Opera and  The Masters of Music.
  • Carol Shields Monograph Collection: 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 Manuscript Collection: Contains correspondence, speeches, clippings, and prints.
  • Robert St. John Manuscript Collection:  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.
  • Anna Louise Strong Collection: 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

  • Glass plate negatives and prints taken by famous Oak Park local Philander Barclay.

Scoville Institute and Oak Park Public Library Collection

  • Rare books, photographs, glass plate negatives, early correspondence, and artifacts from the Oak Park Public Library and its predecessor, the Scoville Institute.