El Museo del Barrio
1230 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
Tel. (212) 831-7272
Noel Valentín, Registrar
Hours open to the public
Museum's public hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Thursday, 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Archives are available by appointment only.
History of the Institution
The mission of El Museo del Barrio is to present and preserve the art and culture of Puerto Ricans and all Latin Americans in the United States.
El Museo del Barrio was founded in 1969 by a group of Puerto Rican parents, educators, artists, and community activists in East Harlem's Spanish-speaking el barrio, the neighborhood that extends from Ninety-sixth Street to the Harlem River and from Fifth Avenue to the East River on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Founded in the context of the national civil rights movement, El Museo also emerged during campaigns that called for major art institutions to to represent a variety of non-European cultures in their collections and programs. From the outset, El Museo defined itself as an educational institution and a place of cultural pride and self-discovery for the founding Puerto Rican community. Initially El Museo operated in a public school classroom as an adjunct to the local school district; then, between 1969 and l976, El Museo moved to a series of storefronts on Third and Lexington Avenues, in the heart of el barrio. In 1977 El Museo found a permanent home in the spacious, neoclassical Heckscher Building at 1230 Fifth Avenue. El Museo is a member of the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG) of New York City.
Since its inception, the museum has collected works from pre-Colombian Caribbean cultures, through traditional arts, to modern and contemporary art. Today its permanent collection holds 6,000 works.
Scope and Content
El Museo has compiled and preserved a sizable biographical, bibliographical, and visual archive on Latino artists. The records of El Museo del Barrio reflect the mission of the institution: to present and preserve the art and culture of Puerto Ricans and all Latin Americans in the United States. As such, most of the material these records contain (seventy-five to eighty percent) pertains to Puerto Rican and Latino art, while the remaining records pertain to Latin American artists who live and work outside of the U.S.
El Museo's archives are organized according to the scope of the materials they preserve; as such, they reflect the history and the specific mission of El Museo. The records are located at various spaces within the Heckscher Building on Fifth Avenue between 104 and 105 Streets.
The archives include:
- Administrative and operations archives pertaining to exhibitions and public events, organized chronologically (performances, teacher and student activities, artists' workshops, and outreach activities)
- Archives related to the permanent collection, including images and text located on The Museum System database (TMS)
- Artists' Files, which containing biographical, bibliographical information, and visual materials (transparencies, slides, etc.) as well as correspondence between El Museo staff and artists, which is organized alphabetically by artists' last names. The Artists' Files is dedicated exclusively to Latino and Latin American artists, with a focus on artists born, living, and working in Puerto Rico and New York City.
- The Young Lords Archives, a small but very important holding of publications by and photographs of this activist group of the 1960s
El Museo also has a small reference library of books and catalogues, with strong holdings in Caribbean pre-Columbian art, traditional arts of Puerto Rico and Mexico, and Puerto Rican, Latino, and Latin American modern and contemporary art. The library also contains books and catalogues on Latin American and Latino artists. Some shelves are organized alphabetically and others by country.
The library also contains some valuable materials concerning the history of El Museo. Among these are several binders with installation slides of every exhibition that has taken place at El Museo since the mid-eighties; there is also some inconsistent documentation of earlier exhibitions. The library contains every publication by El Museo since its founding.
El Museo has a number of recorded public programs and performances, including videos by Liliana Porter and Nicolás Dumit Estévez.
Overall holdings of archives and research material: 367 linear feet.
Overall holdings of archives and research material related to Latino art: 275 linear feet.
Inclusive dates of files: Pre-Columbian–present
Bulk dates: ninth century-seventeenth century (Taíno); 1969–present.
Most of the materials are in English and Spanish, but there are also some in French and Portuguese.
Holdings: Primary Sources
Archives of institution's history and operation related to Latino art:
Seventy-five linear feet
El Museo has a backlog of administrative and operational files that have not been organized at this time and are not accounted for in this survey.
Newsletters and magazines published in-house:
El Museo has a full run of Quimbamba (four issues), a discontinued newsletter it published from the late-1980s through mid-1990s.
El Museo holds twenty-five interviews on videotape, undertaken in 2001 as the preliminary phase of a compilation of the history and timeline of El Museo. Members of the founding community, former and current Trustees, and staff members were interviewed by Yasmín Ramírez, Consulting Curator. Among those interviewed are: Jack Agueros, Tony Bechara, Marimar Benítez, Charles Biasiny-Rivera, Luis Cancel, Evelyn Collazo, Papo Colo, Rafael Colón Morales, Jane Delgado, Marcos Dimas, Carlos Irrizarry, Irving MacManus, Rafael Montañez Ortiz, Isabel Nazario, Carmen Nelson, Carlos Ortiz, Pepón Osorio, Dylcia Pagán, Gladys Peña, Federico Ruiz, Fernando Salicrup, Juan Sánchez, and Nitza Tufiño.
Recorded interviews and performances:
Fourteen recorded events
El Museo holds ninety interviews conducted by Assistant Curator Margarita Aguilar in conjunction and continuation of the Oral History Project and in preparation for the exhibition Voces y Visiones: Highlights from El Museo del Barrio's Permanent Collection. These audiotaped interviews were conducted in 2000 and 2003 and focus on artworks in the permanent collection of El Museo. Creators of the works, their donors and community members knowledgeable of the collection holdings participated in this compilation. Among them are the interviews by: Adál (Maldonado), Papo Colo, Marcos Dimas, Antonio Frasconi, Charles Juhasz-Alvarado, Pepón Osorio, Sandra Pérez, former Mayor of New York Ed Koch, Liliana Porter, Fernando Salicrup, Juan Sánchez, Edward J. Sullivan, Nitza Tufiño, and Rafael Tufiño, among others.
El Museo has videos made by Latino artists and video recordings of performances by Latino artists from programs at or sponsored by El Museo, among which are works by Liliana Porter and Nicolás Dumit Estévez.
El Museo began recording public events in 1999. El Museo's collection of fourteen recordings includes the symposium Then and Now: Reflecting on Chicano and Nuyorican Art (1999), as well as various lectures organized in conjunction with the Rafael Tufiño exhibition. Videos cannot be checked out.
Slides and photographs:
Fifteen linear feet
El Museo preserves numerous transparencies and negatives (both 35mm and 4 x 5), as well as black-and-white photographs documenting installation shots and the art in exhibitions held at El Museo. Transparencies, other negatives, and photographs of works in the permanent collection also are equally preserved in El Museo's archives. In addition, the archives include two linear feet of photos related exclusively to the Heckscher Building and the Teatro Heckscher. Transparencies, other negatives, and photos cannot be checked out, but may be consulted by appointment only.
One hundred items
Approximately one hundred artworks by Puerto Rican, Latino, and Latin American artists are digitized in El Museo's collection database, The Museum System (TMS). The database may be available to qualified researchers by appointment only.
Exhibition catalogues published in-house that include work by Latino artists:
The majority of the catalogues and brochures published by El Museo feature the work of Latino artists. These catalogues span the length of the institution's history, from 1969 to the present. Some titles include: José Morales Paintings & Drawings: New York Series #1 (1979); Children of Darkness: Rafael Colón Morales (1983); Rafael Montañez Ortiz, Years of the Warrior 1960, Years of the Psyche 1988 (1988); Carmen Herrera: the Black-and-White Paintings, 1951–1989 (1989); and Con to' los hierros: Pepón Osorio (1991).
Exhibition catalogues, books, and periodicals related to Latino art:
Sixty linear feet
The small reference library on the first floor contains books and catalogues on Puerto Rican, Latino, and Latin American artists, exhibitions and collections. Publications are organized alphabetically by country and subdivided into monographs on individual artists, group exhibitions or broader themes. Of particular importance is a series of publications by the activist group The Young Lords and related photographs.
Vertical file materials related to Latino art: artist files, brochures, pamphlets, and clippings:
132 linear feet
The artist files contain materials (i.e. biographical and bibliographical materials such as clippings, slides, invitations, brochures, and resumes) of emerging and established artists, including many who have exhibited at El Museo such as José Morales, Pepón Osorio, Juan Sánchez, and Nitza Tufiño. About eighty percent of the artist files are dedicated to U.S. Latino artists.
El Museo does not have a complete finding aid. However, researchers can use TMS, El Museo's collection database, and the museum's object files for works in the collection.
For information on the context and the year of publication of a particular exhibition catalogue published by El Museo, researchers can consult the exhibition catalogue binders, in which all the catalogues have been organized in the order they were published by the institution.
Information about the provenance of a work in the collection is in the minutes of the programs and acquisitions meetings.
The library, artist files, and videos of El Museo are assembled in one room on the ground floor, making it easy for researchers to have access to them. Artist files are organized in alphabetical order by artist's last name. Books are not catalogued, but they are organized in alphabetical order and by country. The library and artist files are accessible by appointment and with prior knowledge of what is to be researched. There is NO equipment for viewing the recorded public programs and videos at the library.
Files of the institution's history, administration, and operation are distributed in various areas both on the first and third floors, and are inaccessible to the general public. They may be made available to qualified researches by appointment only. Correspondence is generally restricted.
Information about the provenance of a work in the permanent collection is recorded in the museum's object files and on The Museums System database (TMS) located on the first floor. These files are not open to the general public, but are available to qualified researchers by appointment only.
El Museo del Barrio restricts access to selected records that contain confidential information.
El Museo del Barrio has one of the largest and most preeminent collections of research material on Latino artists in New York and the United States.
The strength of the collection resides in the Artist Files. These contain slides, clippings, and invitations pertaining to numerous Latino artists from the Nuyorican community, as well from other communities such as the Mexican-American, Cuban, and Dominican.
The institutional files, catalogues, and exhibition slides of El Museo also constitute a major asset of El Museo's library and archives, as they document the history of the first museum dedicated to Puerto Rican and Latin American art in the U.S.
Relations to other Latino and Latin American organizations:
Throughout its thirty-six years El Museo has benefited from its collaborations with many institutions also dedicated to the study, preservation, and presentation of Puerto Rican, Latino, and Latin American art and culture. These organizations include:
- In New York City: Cayman Gallery, El Taller Boricua, Association of Hispanic Art, The Latino and Video Festival of the Public Theater, InterAmericas/Society of Arts and Letters of the Americas, The Printmaking Workshop, and En Foco, Inc.
- In Texas: Gilberto Cárdenas/Galería Sin Fronteras and Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin
- In Pennsylvania: El Taller Puertorriqueño
- In Chicago: Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum
- In the Caribbean: Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe, San Juan; Museo de Antropologia, Historia y Arte, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras; Museo del Hombre Dominicano, Santo Domingo and Museo de Arqueología, Altos de Chavón, Dominican Republic
- In Mexico and South America: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico and Museo de Arte Latino Americano de Buenos Aires/MALBA, Buenos Aires
Other institutions with different missions from El Museo who have been significant partners include the Board of Education of New York City, the New York Council for the Arts, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, among others.
El Museo del Barrio would like to acquire the means to improve the organization of these significant materials and to make them more readily available to researchers and the general public.