The Archives and Records Center preserves the most important records of Catholic Chicago. Most of the material is 20th century, but there are older records in some collections. The holdings of the Archives and Records Center are vast and in some cases, unprocessed. Unprocessed collections are not open to research.
The personal papers, business records and photograph collections of Cardinals Mundelein, Stritch, Meyer, Cody, as well as smaller collections for Archbishops Feehan and Quigley, and Bishops Duggan and Foley, are all processed and available to researchers.
Bishop William Quarter’s diary (finished by Bishop Van de Velde) is available on microfilm and in hard copy. Personal and business papers are also available for Bishop Bernard J. Sheil, William J. Onahan, Rev. David C. Fulmer, Bishop Peter J. Muldoon, and Msgr. Charles N. Meter. Files from bishops, chancellors, vicars general, and other decision-makers within the archdiocese can be found in the Madaj Collection (1675–1928) or the Chancery Correspondence Files (1929–1958).
The public writings and photographs of Cardinal Bernardin are processed, and his business records will be open to researchers in 2021 – 25 years after his respective death. Like Cardinal Bernardin, Cardinal George's business records will be open in 2040.
Pre-1916 sacramental registers for all parishes (open and closed) are available on microfilm. However, the Archives only actively collects records from closed parishes and schools. When a parish or school closes, Archives may receive bulletins, yearbooks, photographs or other historically significant material, all of which is open to researchers. The Archives houses commemorative books for parishes celebrating milestones like anniversaries or building dedications. Parish annual reports from 1868 to 1982 are also available.
The Archives and Records Center is the repository for the inactive records and archival collections of archdiocesan agencies, programs and organizations. Processed collections include organizational papers for the Poor Clares, Pueri Cantores, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Catholic Action Federation. Photography collections from the Office of The New World and the Catholic Youth Organization offer images documenting archdiocesan life from the early 20th century through the 1980s.
Collections also include liturgical and devotional materials; minutes from the Archdiocesan School Board; Angel Guardian Orphanage papers; the Katholischer Jugendfreund/Catholic Young People’s Friend; newspapers on microfilm including Western Tablet, 1852 –1854; Western Catholic, 1869-1887; New World, a.k.a. the Chicago Catholic, 1892 – present and architectural drawings.
Holdings encompass many formats of records such as maps, plans, photographs, paintings, films, sound recordings and video recordings, but it consists primarily of paper records. The Archives also houses the oral history projects for Rev. Steve Avella and Michael Hartnett.