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Public Service Announcement: Volunteer Archivists Needed

July 20, 2008

The Records and Archives Department of the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County—the county in which Chicago resides—is seeking volunteers for an “indexing and preservation project” funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The Chicago Tribune reported this need here. Clerk’s office archivist Phil Costello is heading the project.

As a teaser on the archives, here is a list of its holdings. They include famous court cases such as the Black Sox Scandal, an inquiry into Louis Armstrong’s domestic relations, the Haymarket Affair, Dean C. O’Banion’s Probate Case (O’Banion was a 1920s gangster), something on Nelson Algren (right, no description is given of the case, but he was a fiction writer who authored The Man With A Golden Arm), Iroquois Theater Fire, Leopold and Loeb’s “Crime of the Century,” and proceedings related to the conviction of notorious serial murderer John Wayne Gacy.

Of course the volunteer project won’t deal with these significant historical cases whose papers are already vetted and organized. If you sign up, however, you’ll become familiar with the Clerk’s Archives and may stumble upon something fun or even important. The Tribune story noted that one helper discovered a “Declaration of Intention”—papers filed by those applying for citizenship—from August Wennerstrom, a Titanic survivor who eventually headed a military academy in Culver, Indiana. This project sounds perfect for those interested in Chicago history, immigration history, legal history, and public history.

The last paragraph of the article contains information on how to get involved. – TL

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