The Louis H. Sullivan Architectural Ornament Collection began as a beneficial purchase from Richard Nickel, a Chicago architectural photographer who had amassed the core of the collection as buildings were being demolished. Initially the bulk of the collection was stored at the Wagner complex in town and some pieces were installed in Lovejoy Library before it opened and some (especially those in plaster and wood) were stored for a while in one of the "penthouses" atop the building. As more and more of the space at the Wagner complex was being used as offices, shops and warehouses for the supporting services of the University, the collection was at some point relocated to an old barn at Tract 28 on the main campus. By the time the Museum was created in 1979, a good portion of the collection had become undermined by groundhogs and had sunk into the ground. An initial inventory was taken at the barn and a catalog of the collection was published with the support of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Later, some conservation was undertaken with a grant from the Institute of Museum Services (now the Institute of Museum and Library Services.) Objects were removed from the barn was scheduled for demolition around 1986 and were then returned to the Wagner Complex to spaces assigned to the Museum. When the University decided to vacate Wagner and build our current facility the objects one again had to be moved. Over the years we continued to add to the collection through gifts and purchases. The collection does include objects by architects other than Louis Sullivan.
Objects from the Sullivan collection on exhibit in Lovejoy Library were reinstalled in 2007 and can be seen here along with copies of the text panels.