Scav Hunt at UChicago: Seeking Fun—Finding Tradition

Exhibition Dates: April 29 – August 9, 2024
Exhibition Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637

Two men pedal a go kart
Nick Confrey and Mike Skrzypczak compete in the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt. 2016. (Photo courtesy of Nick Confrey)

Quirky, at times impossible, yet always fun, Scavenger Hunt—or Scav—has set UChicago students dashing on multiday searches for eclectic lists of miscellany since 1987. Simultaneously a break from coursework and a thinly veiled learning exercise, Scav has become an enjoyable rite of spring for undergraduates, as well as some graduates and alumni.

Beyond the dorms, Scav unifies the student body in a way that sports teams build school-specific spirit at some colleges. Students recognize Scav as uniquely UChicago and players back the game with fierce intensity and school pride.

For nearly four decades, Scavenger Hunt has evolved, adapted with technology, and garnered local, national, and international press, yet throughout time, it has retained its characteristic spirit of humor, playful rigor, and inclusion that reflects core UChicago values and has become an endearing student tradition.

This exhibition features materials donated to the University of Chicago Archive and items on loan from the Scavenger Hunt’s founding members, former judges, past players, and current teams. Notable items include the first Scavenger Hunt list and items used in the 1999 creation of a breeder reactor, along with an array of t-shirts, photographs, and judges’ notes that document the lengths Scavvies will go to in search of fun and to be part of a beloved UChicago tradition.

A large group of students form a "human elephant"
Participants in the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt play Human Elephant Polo, responding to “Item 157. Four standing teammates form the noble steed. Atop them perches your player in his howdah, mallet in hand. You are now ready for a game of Human Elephant Polo at 4 pm on Thursday, on the Midway between University and Woodlawn. [phi points].” 2010. (Photo courtesy of Jason Smith)


Christine Colburn, Reader Services Manager, The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library
Patti Gibbons, Head of Collection Management, The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library
Chelsea Kaufman, Library Exhibition Designer, The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library


This exhibition is free and open to the public.

Visitors to the University of Chicago Library may obtain a visitor pass by checking in at Regenstein Library's entry desk. Get more visitor information.

Exhibition Gallery Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.; Wednesday: 10 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.

Associated Events

The Hunt

April 28, 1-3 p.m.
Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637
Doc Films

Journey back to 2002 with this alumni-made documentary about everyone's favorite UChicago tradition. Free screening sponsored by the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center.

Meet the Founders of Scav

May 1, 2024, 7 p.m.
The Joseph Regenstein Library, Room 122A
Chicago, Illinois 60637

On the eve of Scav 2024, find out how it all started in 1987 from the founders themselves. Chris Straus, Cassie Hallberg, Diane Kelly, Rick Jeffries, and Nolan McCarty will tell us how it all began.

Free and open to the public. Learn more.

Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download to members of the media and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news. For more information, contact Rachel Rosenberg at or 773-834-1519.

A man waves  flag with a smiling tree on it in front of Lake Michigan as the sun rises.
Hunter Chase waving the Breckinridge flag at Promontory Point. (Photographer Nick Confrey)