dontate now

Join Email List

Facebook  Become a Fan on Facebook
twitter  Follow Us on Twitter

329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

Search Instructions

WELCOME to Chicago Film Archives’ collections portal!

We have organized the presentation of CFA’s holdings through the lens of each collection whether it’s the lens of a Midwest family’s home movies, a dance company that is based out of Chicago, a mid-century pro-wrestling promoter such as Russ Davis or an industrial filmmaker like Jack Behrend.  So when you search the collections, be aware that you will come across results that describe the collection as a whole, as well as individual items within and across the collections.


When going to our Explore Collections page you will see an entry or tab to ALL COLLECTIONS, as well as entries or tabs into a list of collections that contain only HOME MOVIES or AMATEUR FILMS or PROFESSIONAL FILMS.  At each of these entry points, the display offers a Collection title, abstract and image for you to browse.  Click on the title and you enter the Finding Aid for that collection.  The Finding Aid gives you an idea of the size and scope of the collection as well as an overview of its contents.  At the end of the Finding Aid you will find a list of the works (items) within the collection.  If the work has been processed and digitized, it will display a link to the item.  Click on that link and you will find a streaming video of the work as well as a description …the length, format, and an abstract of its content.  Please be patient if the video is not linked to the collection record yet.  It’s coming as we transfer and render thousands of works in the archive.  This site is a living site!

We have also provided other ways to browse collection Finding Aids. These Finding Aids will contain descriptive biographical and historical information about the collection.  Click on the BROWSE FINDING AIDS button and you will see a variety of ways you can search Collection records (or Finding Aids) …for example by Decade, Place, Entities, Genres or Subject.  When you choose one of these criteria you will be given a list of collections  matching the criteria selected.  At the top of the results page will find ways to further refine your search (this feature is labeled “Refine Results By”).  Choose one of the criteria listed and the results will be narrowed down to your specific request.  Please note that you can refine your search results multiple times for optimum results.

The BROWSE ITEMS button functions much the same way except your results will consist of only item records or information.  The item could be a film, a video, a sound recording or ephemera.  You can search for these items by Decade, Place, Entities, Genre or Subject and then further refine your search where it says “Refine Results By”.  For many of these items there will be representative digital media (such as streaming video) included with the data.

The RECORD TYPES button allows you to browse item records by media type.  You can select Film, Video, Audio or Ephemera and get a list of items from those types of media across collections.  You also have an option to browse a complete list of Collections as well.


And finally, by entering any word within the Search Collections search box, you can search for records that contain your specific search term.  You can once again refine your search results by clicking on the “Filter” button at the top of the page.  From there you will be directed to options to refine your results.


Having trouble getting your video to load and play? First troubleshooting step is to try a new web browser. Our streaming videos work best in Google Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer web browsers. This is because our streaming videos have a customized H.264 codec and these browsers best handle this format.


If you are having trouble navigating CFA’s Collections portal, please contact us by phone at 312-243-1808 or by email at  Once again, please be aware that this site is a living site…….it will expand over time!