The substrates for the essential biological processes of transcription, replication, recombination, DNA repair, and cell division are not naked DNA; rather, they are protein-DNA complexes known as chromatin, in one or another stage of a hierarchical series of compactions. These are exciting times for students of chromatin. New studies provide incontrovertible evidence linking chromatin structure to function. Exceptional progress has been made in studies of the structure of chromatin subunits. Surprising new dynamic properties have been discovered. And, much progress has been made in dissecting the functional roles of specific chromatin proteins and domains. This review focuses on in vitro studies of chromatin structure, dynamics, and function.