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Chicago History: Coming to a Museum and Theater Near You

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 27, 2006 8:58PM

All year we’ve been hearing the hype and the promises. This week, two Chicago cultural institutions invite the public to see the results of their high profile face lifts.

chihistory.gifThe venue once known as the Chicago Historical Society regularly provided modest, helpful insights into local and regional history. Now it’s been renovated and renamed the Chicago History Museum, sporting 16,000 shiny new square feet for robust programming, heeding Burnham’s command to “Make no small plans.” This week’s Skyline breathlessly previewed the new space, praising the inaugural five-part “Chicago: Crossroads of America” exhibit. Resin statues (like wax, but more durable) of famous Chicagoans guide visitors through collections of early settler artifacts, retail displays (indulge your Field’s fix here), World Fair souvenirs, and sports memorabilia.

Far from a stuffy institution of learning, the History Museum takes you back to those days when Walter and Michael dazzled packed stadiums and, as this morning’s 848 reported, shows off that low rider you once coveted. Everyone’s invited to this weekend’s grand opening party, a neighborhood festival that should be educational and memorable… provided you don’t spend too much time at the beer tent.

biographmarquee.jpgTomorrow night, a few History Museum big wigs will join corporate big wigs and theater buffs to celebrate the marquee lighting at the venue formerly known as the Biograph, Victory Gardens Theater’s new home. Then they’ll be taking the original Biograph marquee back to the Museum. Fans of Chicagoalia know the theater as the site where Dillinger was shot, and movie fans of a certain age may know the theater as the site where John Cusack used Dillinger’s story to prove some point about screwed up relationships. Starting this weekend, it will be the site where local playwrights find some love.

The Chicago History Museum’s Grand Opening Weekend is at Clark Street and North Avenue, Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon – 5 p.m. Admission is free, reservations are recommended. More information at

The lights go on at Victory Gardens at the Biograph, 2433 N Lincoln Ave, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday night. The ceremony starts at 6:15 p.m. Admission is free. Previews of their inaugural show, Denmark, begin Friday night. Tickets are $26-31. More information at