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Nancy Campbell Hays

Photographer. Activist.Preservationist 



Nancy Campbell Hays (1923/2007), a beloved Hyde Park photographer, activist and preservationist, arrived in Chicago in 1958 from NYC at the age of 35 and would remain here, building her legacy and supporting the local community, the rest of her life.  

She worked as a photographer for the Hyde Park Herald, crafted innovative advertising campaigns for the Hyde Park Cooperative, and loved to wander our streets and lakefront capturing the authentic spirit of this unique part of Chicago.  She is a Hyde Park legend.

In 2007, at her passing, Nancy left her entire collection of photographs and negatives to the Hyde Park Historical Society and they have remained safely at Regenstein library since her death. 

The time has come to explore her legacy, to open up the boxes of mostly never before seen images that were closed for 12 years, and to celebrate the individual that was Nancy Hays. 

The Nancy Hays collection comprises almost 200 boxes of material. Through the years, Nancy documented Hyde Park – the 57th Street Art Fair, the 4th on 53rd Parade, the countless community events, Promontory Point, the children, the parks and the trees.  

Her passion was preserving Hyde Park through her photographs as well as her activism. She was a founding member of Friends of the Parks, joined the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference, helped found the Burnham Committee to save the trees and was a founding member of the Jackson Park Advisory Council.

The first step in bringing her full body of work to life, is to exhibit a small, select collection of Nancy’s work. Serendipitously, in 2017, ten years after her passing, two local photographers - Becca and Mik Major - happened to move into her old home. After learning of her legacy and thousands of images just waiting to be unboxed, they were inspired to help unearth the collection. We have been fortunate to be working with them now for over a year as well as photojournalist Marc Monaghan.

Photographic exhibits are expensive to display, and we need your help.



The Hyde Park Historical Society plans to fully develop and process the Nancy Hays collection at Regenstein Library.  This is a substantial undertaking and costs are estimated to be $100,000+.  

In order to kickstart this effort, the Society has pledged $1,000 to help mount the first exhibit of Nancy Hays’ photographs. This exhibit will highlight a small portion of the Nancy Hays material and be used to publicize Nancy’s work and as a basis for further fundraising activities.  The exhibit will initially be displayed at the Hyde Park Historical Society then at other venues throughout Hyde Park. The goal is to have the exhibit ready for display by early Fall 2019 with estimated costs of $8,500, leaving a balance of $7,500 that needs to be raised.

We are asking interested individuals, families, and organizations to help raise the remaining $7,500.  Because this is the initial phase, any funds raised above the $7,500 will help to further the larger project.  The Nancy Hays collection is an important Hyde Park legacy and deserves to see the light of day. Please be generous!





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Hyde Park Historical Society

5529 S. Lake Park Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60637

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