You’ve probably heard of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History, but Chicago is home to many other interesting museums as well. Though they might not be as well known, that doesn’t mean they’re not worth exploring. You’ll find that Chicago’s museums have something for everyone, whether you’re interested in art, history, or even surgical science.
American Writers Museum
This museum is dedicated to recognizing and celebrating American writers, encouraging people to appreciate both the spoken and written word, and influencing the rising generation of writers. The museum’s interactive exhibits allow visitors to add lines to stories, explore works of literature, and play games devoted to famous writers’ vocabularies and styles, all while learning interesting facts about these scribes and discovering more about the art of writing.
Hours: 10 a.m. — 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Thursday
Address: 180 N. Michigan Avenue, 2nd Floor
Admission: $12 for adults, free for children under 12
International Museum of Surgical Science
Learn more about the history and development of health and medicine, as well as advances in surgery, at the only museum in North America dedicated to this specific topic. With four floors of artifacts, illustrations, and sculptures, the International Museum of Surgical Science educates visitors about breakthroughs and failures in healing efforts and surgical science. Containing information about both historical and modern techniques, the exhibits will teach you about a variety of medical practices and advances — including blood transfusions, pain, gynecology, and medical imaging. If you’re a health professional, or if you’re moving toward a career in medicine, this is the museum for you!
Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Address: 1524 N. Lake Shore Drive
Admission: $17 for adults
Chicago Maritime Museum
Chicago might seem like a strange place for a maritime museum. However, the city’s history has long been influenced by Lake Michigan. In 1872, more ships arrived at and departed from the Port of Chicago than any other port in North America.
This museum, which has been collecting items that document the city’s maritime history since 1982, educates visitors about Chicago’s development as a port city. You’ll find watercraft, artifacts, canoes, images and other artwork inside.
Hours: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday
Address: 1200 West 35th Street, Ste 0E-5010
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for students
Intuit: the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
Intuit is dedicated to being an inclusive, safe space. Here, you won’t find artwork with strong connections to the mainstream, but rather, you’ll find outsider art, created by self-taught and visionary artists. Many of these artists haven’t had access to quality resources and have had to find their own motivation and unique vision.
Intuit is a not-for-profit organization that focuses on overcoming boundaries through artwork. In addition to temporary art exhibits, the center has a permanent collection of paintings, prints, photographs, and sculptures, as well as a permanent exhibit dedicated to artist Henry Darger (1892-1973), focused on the contents of his Lincoln Park apartment. Darger was a secret artist and novelist whose creative work was discovered just before he died, when he moved into a nursing home and his apartment was cleared out. He had worked as a janitor and dishwasher. The exhibit exists to showcase Darger’s creative efforts.
Hours: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (open until 7 p.m. on Thursdays), noon – 5 p.m. on Sundays
Address: 756 N Milwaukee Avenue
The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture
This museum is the only one in the country solely devoted to the arts and culture of Puerto Rico. Through exhibitions and programming, the NMPRAC strives to promote the visibility of Puerto Rican art. It’s home to three galleries, classrooms, a gift shop, and even performance spaces. The museum also focuses on the role Puerto Ricans have played in shaping the art and culture of Chicago. The beauty and significance of Puerto Rican art, culture, and tradition displayed at NMPRAC will inspire visitors from all walks of life.
Hours:10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturdays
Address: 3015 West Division Street
National Veterans Art Museum
All artwork in this museum was created by war veterans. Focused on increasing awareness of the impacts of war and providing a unique perspective, the museum offers many educational opportunities, in addition to its art exhibits. Originally dedicated to Vietnam veterans, the museum now features artwork by veterans of any war. The permanent collection includes paintings, photography, sculptures, poetry, and music created by more than 250 veterans. The museum aims to spark conversations about the effects of war, providing any visitors with the opportunity to learn about perspectives they might not have considered before.
Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday
Address: 4041 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
In 1889, social reformer Jane Addams co-founded the Hull-House, a social settlement where immigrants met to learn, talk, and adjust to life in a new country. Residents of the Hull-House offered classes on skills like English and cooking, as well as services like a nursery and public kitchen, to people in the community. Jane Addams worked and lived in the Hull-House and was also known for her writing and international peace efforts. She was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum preserves the settlement and has more than 5,000 related artifacts, including textiles, drawings, and furnishings. The museum also contains a variety of temporary exhibits.
Hours: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon – 4 p.m. on Sundays
Address: 800 S. Halsted St. (M/C 051)
Admission: $5 suggested donation
Leather Archives and Museum
This adults-only museum is devoted to leather, kink, and fetish lifestyles. Here, you can learn about the history of alternative sex culture by walking through eight exhibit galleries. Items within the museum include bondage equipment, a timeline chronicling leather history, an art gallery, and a room where you can watch movies about leather and fetish lifestyles.
Hours:11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Address: 6418 N. Greenview Avenue
Though Chicago’s popular museums are worth checking out too, visitors can explore even more facets of the city by adding some of these lesser-known museums to their itineraries.