Contemporary Photography Museum

Discover the sole museum in the Midwestern region of the United States that is exclusively devoted to the art of photography. This remarkable museum offers an exceptional choice for visitors exploring Chicago, allowing them to immerse themselves in the captivating world of photography during their leisurely hour or two. Serving as a delightful respite from the bustling tourist hotspots, the Museum of Contemporary Photography is a modest yet esteemed institution that boasts its own extensive collection of photographic masterpieces alongside captivating rotating exhibits.

Established in 1976 as the successor to the Chicago Center for Contemporary Photography, this museum embarked on its journey of collecting captivating photographic works in the early 1980s. Over the course of the past three decades, the museum’s collection has flourished, now encompassing more than 15,000 captivating objects created by over 1,500 distinguished artists. Among these luminaries are Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Graciela Iturbide, Irving Penn, and countless others, whose contributions have enriched the museum’s artistic treasury.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography is driven by a noble mission to foster meaningful connections and facilitate dialogue among artists, students, and diverse communities, all while nurturing a deep appreciation for the profound significance of photography in various facets of life. Guided by this vision, the museum’s collection continually expands and evolves to encompass an array of artistic forms within the realm of photography. From captivating digital compositions to exquisite gelatin-silver prints, from mesmerizing photograms to vibrant works of color, the museum’s diverse array of objects truly represents the multifaceted nature of the art of photography.

Not to Miss at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Ever-changing exhibitions pose a challenge when it comes to suggesting specific artworks to view. Nevertheless, the optimal approach to obtain firsthand information about the current exhibition is by joining a pre-organized tour. These tours, led by knowledgeable docents, can be arranged for visiting groups or classes at no cost. Within these groups, the museum staff will expertly guide up to 30 visitors through engaging discussions centered around the ongoing exhibition. To secure a spot, it is advised to schedule the visit at least two weeks in advance. Tours are available from Monday to Friday, starting from 10am and concluding at 4:30pm. On Thursdays, the museum extends its hours until 7:30pm, allowing for later visits.

Museum of Contemporary Photography Amenities

The Museum of Contemporary Photography is a modest and unpretentious venue that offers basic facilities. While individuals with disabilities are welcome, there are currently no specific programs tailored to accommodate their needs.


While you’re in the vicinity, be sure not to miss out on Grant Park, especially if the weather is pleasant! Located just a short 5-7-minute stroll from the museum, this expansive park spans over 300 acres and is often referred to as “Chicago’s Front Yard.” Take a leisurely walk through the park grounds and make sure to visit Buckingham Fountain, admire the bronze warrior statues in Congress Plaza on the west side, or enjoy a delightful stroll or bike ride along the scenic 18-mile Lakefront Trail.

Getting There to the Museum of Contemporary Photography

The Museum of Contemporary Photography can be found within the premises of Columbia College, situated at 600 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605. Its advantageous downtown location allows for easy access by car, public transportation, or bicycle.

Traveling by Car

Considering that your visit to the museum is not expected to last the entire day, your best option for parking would be on the nearby streets around Columbia College, provided you can find an available spot.

For parking garages in the vicinity, you can consider the following options:

  1. Peoples Auto Parking: It has entrances on East Harrison and South Wabash.
  2. Loop Auto Parks: Located at 524 South Wabash Avenue.
  3. One Place Garage: Situated at 1 East 8th Street.

Public Transportation

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) offers convenient access to the museum through nearby “L” train stops on the Brown, Green, and Red Lines. Additionally, several bus routes have stops in the surrounding area.


Within the Columbia College campus, you’ll find bike racks available for secure parking. If you choose to cycle, an effective route to reach the campus is to take the Lakefront Trail, proceed to the Museum Campus interchange, and continue on Michigan Avenue until you reach 11th Street. Both Wabash Avenue and Dearborn Street have designated bike lanes for your safety and convenience.

To further facilitate your biking experience, Chicago provides Divvy, a bike-sharing program. You’ll find numerous automated bike rental stations conveniently situated around the Columbia College campus.

When to Go to the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Opening Hours and Less Crowded Visits

Operating Hours: 

The museum is open from Monday to Saturday, starting at 10am and closing at 5pm. On Sundays, it opens at 12 noon and remains open until 5pm. However, on Thursdays, the museum has extended hours and stays open until 8pm.

Optimal Time for Visits:

If you prefer a less crowded experience, weekday mornings are recommended for your visit. During this time, there tends to be fewer visitors, providing a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. Given the small size of the building and the fact that some artwork is displayed in the main corridors, it is wise to plan your visit around a time when the museum is less likely to be crowded.

Closures and Planning:

It’s important to note that the museum follows Columbia College’s schedule. Therefore, when the college is closed, the museum is also closed. This includes all major holidays. Additionally, the museum remains closed between exhibitions for installations. To avoid any inconvenience, please make sure to check the museum’s website before planning your visit. This will ensure that you have up-to-date information on closures and exhibitions.

Museum of Contemporary Photography Insider Tips

Please be aware that not every item in the collection is constantly exhibited for public viewing. To have the opportunity of observing the complete permanent collection under the guidance of a knowledgeable docent, it is necessary to schedule an appointment at least two weeks prior to your visit. Please contact us at (312) 344-7793 to arrange your appointment.

Admission to the museum is free for all visitors; however, we kindly suggest considering a voluntary donation to contribute towards our mission. It would greatly support the cause we strive to uphold.

Photography Museum Details

  • Museum of Contemporary Photography
    Columbia College Chicago
  • Location: 600 S Michigan Ave
    Chicago, IL 60605
  • Phone Number: (312) 663-5554
  • Year Established: 1976
  • Website:

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