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Chicago History Museum Makes Thousands of Blues Images From the Raeburn Flerlage Archives Available to the Public

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, BB King, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan are just some of the artists captured by the remarkable and relatively unknown Chicago blues and American music photographer Raeburn Flerlage.

The Chicago History Museum announces the release of the Raeburn Flerlage archives, a collection of over 45,000 photographic images and papers related to the photographer’s life and professional career, to researchers and the general public.

“The Raeburn Flerlage archives captured a critical moment in the development of Chicago blues,” said John Russick, vice president of interpretation and education at the Chicago History Museum. “His camera was framed on the artists, fans and clubs that fueled the newly electrified Southern Blues sound as it transformed into a loud more muscular urban form – influencing musicians around the world and changing the face of Chicago music.”

Flerlage spent nearly two decades in Chicago, beginning in the late 1950s, photographing some of the city and nation’s most important blues artists. He is one of only a handful of photographers who documented the electrification of the city’s blues scene. Though most well remembered for his blues music photography, he also captured emerging jazz and folk artists. His involvement with the Chicago music scene extended to his radio programs, music reviews, lectures and his record distribution business.

Flerlage’s depictions of blues music in Chicago is the inspiration for the Museum’s upcoming exhibition, “Amplified: Chicago Blues,” that opens to the public on Saturday, April 7, 2018. The exhibition tells the story of how Chicago blues captured the attention of musicians and music enthusiasts worldwide, through interactives, photographs, visual material and objects.

This collection is now accessible to the public through the Museum’s Research Center, which serves the Museum’s archives, manuscripts, prints and photographs and more. A curated selection of more than 1,000 of Raeburn Flerlage’s photographs is available online at Chicago History Museum Images. Images will continue to be added to the site during the course of the exhibition and beyond.

In addition to early images of Chicago blues legends, notable items from the collection include:

Flerlage’s freelance photography for recording artists and record companies, such as Folkways, Delmark, Prestige and Testament.

Photographs of Southside Chicago community events, like the annual Bud Billiken Parade.

A collection of Flerlage’s journals, day planners and personal correspondences that reveal his thoughts and feelings about his work in the Chicago music scene and personal relationships.

Record album covers, serials, newspaper clippings, posters and other published materials using Flerlage’s photographs or writings.

More information on Flerlage and the Raeburn Flerlage archives is available at the Research Center’s online finding aid.

The Raeburn Flerlage archives were processed with the generous support of the Delmas Foundation.


The Chicago History Museum, a major museum and research center for Chicago and American history, is located at 1601 N. Clark Street. The Museum has dedicated more than a century to celebrating and sharing Chicago’s stories through dynamic exhibitions, tours, publications, special events and programming. The Museum collects and preserves millions of artifacts, documents and images to help audiences connect to the city and its history. The Chicago History Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the Chicago Park District on behalf of the people of Chicago. The Chicago History Museum is a 2016 winner of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the highest award given to these institutions for their community engagement and having an impact on the lives of individuals, families, and communities.

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