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MoMA

ARCHIVES FAQ

Archives

Frequently Asked Questions

Archives Overview

Visiting the Museum Archives

Permissions and Publishing

Q. What is in the MoMA Archives?

A. The Museum of Modern Art Archives collects, preserves, and makes accessible primary source documentation relating to modern and contemporary art. These records include the Museum’s exhibition files, personal papers of curators and directors, press office records, sound and video recordings of events, and other material. The Archives is also a repository for select manuscript collections generated by outside organizations or individuals that reflect the Museum’s collections and programming. These include the papers or business records of writers, artists, dealers, and galleries. You may refer to our complete list of holdings.

Q. Who should research in the Archives?

A. Researchers must exhaust all published resources before they will be given access to the Archives. Please see the Museum’s Library for assistance. A select list of published reading on MoMA history is also available. Archives researchers should be only those who require access to original documentation for specific purposes.

Q. What is a finding aid?

A. A finding aid is a descriptive guide for an archival collection. Typically it includes information about the origin, history, content, date, and format of the records, as well as the physical and intellectual arrangement imposed upon them by the archivist. Most of the finding aids for collections in our holdings include a folder-level inventory. Note: as our collection contains several million documents, it is not feasible to describe or catalog each item. Therefore, description is offered at the folder level.

Q. How do I research a particular artist or work of art?

A. One way to find material in the Museum Archives related to a particular artist is a keyword search across our collections. However, the Museum Archives does not hold artist or object files. Most of our records are organized by MoMA exhibition or event title, rather than by artist's name.

If the artist/work of art you are researching was the subject of a MoMA exhibition, the Registrar and/or Curatorial Exhibition Files held by the Archives may be of some use. While these files are not specifically object-focused, they can sometimes reveal important information about an included artist or artwork. For example, there may be information about Pablo Picasso in the Curatorial Exhibition Files for Cubism and Abstract Art [MoMA Exh. #46, March 2–April 19, 1936]. However, there is no way at this time to look up an artist and determine which exhibition(s) included his/her work. For more information about the exhibition files, please see How do I research a particular MoMA exhibition?

Individual curatorial departments do hold artist and object files concerning works in the MoMA collection available for advanced research requests. For access to these files, researchers should contact the appropriate curatorial study center, using the contact information at MoMA.org/learn/resources/study_centers/index.

Please also keep in mind that most of our holdings relate to artists who are represented in the MoMA collection or have been exhibited at the Museum.

Q. How do I search the Archives for material related to my topic?

A. Researchers may search across all of our finding aids (inventories) to our collections at MoMA.org/learn/resources/archives/archives_holdings. Doing so will produce a list of those finding aids that include the search term entered. You will then need to open each finding aid separately and search within for more detailed information, including the relevant folder or item numbers. When requesting an appointment, researchers must provide the collection title and folder identifier found in the left-hand column (ex. Dorothy Miller Papers, I.14.a-c), and not the full folder description.

While keyword searching is one way to search, the researcher should also read through relevant finding aids. Archival collections are too voluminous to be described on an item level and are organic in nature. Therefore, the researcher should consider the context and manner in which specific documentation was created. For instance, the René d’Harnoncourt Papers include folders listed as “General Correspondence A–C, 1940s," “General Correspondence D–F, 1940s," and so forth. If you were looking for correspondence with Alan Blackburn, a keyword search on his name would not indicate that the “A–C" file might be of relevance. It is important to keep in mind that you will likely need to spend time reading the finding aids beyond the initial keyword search. Our staff can help direct you to collections that may be relevant if you are not finding material on your topic.

Please note that researchers must exhaust all published resources before consulting the Archives. Archives research is reserved for those who require access to original documentation for specific purposes. A good source for published resources concerning modern artists, artworks, movements, and exhibitions is the Museum Library. You may search the MoMA Library’s catalog online, and you may schedule a Library appointment by telephone at (212) 708-9433 or by e-mailing library@moma.org. Please keep in mind that the Museum’s Library and Archives are separate departments; you will not be able to consult archival materials during an appointment in the Library.

Q. How do I research a particular MoMA exhibition?

A. The Archives holds exhibition files produced by the Museum’s Registrar and by various curatorial departments. These files tend to contain correspondence with artists and lenders, internal memoranda, curatorial research, material about the catalogue, and so forth. They offer information about decisions made in the planning of the show and the overall thought process behind the exhibition. You may consult our Exhibition Files Chart to determine which files exist and are available.

Please note: Exhibition files must undergo a one-time vetting process before being opened to the public for research. At this time, only the files that have already been vetted are available. Exhibition Files are also closed for 15 years following the end of a show. In addition, in 2014 The Museum of Modern Art Archives, with the support of the Leon Levy Foundation, is beginning a two-and-a-half-year project to fully describe and preserve MoMA's Curatorial and Registrar exhibition files. As part of that project, a section of files will be closed to the public while work is underway. The Exhibition Files Chart will detail which files are currently open or closed as the project progresses.

There is often other exhibition-related material aside from the Exhibition Files themselves, such as press reviews, sound recordings of panel discussions and events held in conjunction with the exhibition, etc. To locate this material, we ask that you conduct a search across the finding aids on our holdings page

Finally, the Museum Archives holds 18,800 installation photographs of MoMA exhibitions, dating from the Museum’s founding in 1929 to 2000. These photographs, as well as digitally created images of the exhibitions since 2000, are available on an internal database called MAID (Museum Archives Image Database) that is accessible in the Archives and Library reading rooms. If installation photographs exist for an exhibition, they may still be viewed in the Archives reading room, even if the other exhibition files for that show are closed. Many (though not all) of these photographs can also be accessed through ARTstor, a subscription-based resource available at many research libraries.

Please note: published exhibition catalogues for MoMA shows are available in the Museum Library. You may search the MoMA Library’s catalog online. You may schedule a Library appointment by telephone at (212)708-9433 or by e-mailing library@moma.org.

Q. How do I consult archival materials?

A. Access to nearly all of our holdings requires an on-site appointment. Our Manhattan reading room is open on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., by appointment. Our Queens reading room is open on Mondays only, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The schedule tends to fill several weeks in advance. You may submit an appointment request using our online form.

Prior to scheduling an appointment, we ask that you send a list of the specific material you wish to consult. A list of our collections and information about access, including whether a collection is housed in Manhattan or Queens, is available on our holdings page. This website also allows you to search across all of the finding aids (inventories) to our collections. Doing so will produce a list of those that include the search term entered. You will then need to open each finding aid separately and search within for more detailed information, including the relevant folder or item numbers.

Please send us a list of any material you wish to view—we ask that you provide the collection title and folder identifier only (ex. Dorothy Miller Papers, I.14.a-c)—and we will schedule your appointment.

Q. Are any of your materials available remotely (e.g., as digital scans)?

A. Access to most of our materials requires an on-site appointment. However, a few of our collections have been microfilmed and are available by interlibrary loan through the Archives of American Art (AAA), Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Those collections are the Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Papers (with the exceptions of Series 1b, 1c, 2a, 3a, 9a, and 11-18); the Lillie P. Bliss Scrapbook; and the Public Information Scrapbooks.

You may contact the AAA by telephone at (202) 275-1955 or use their online reference service. When requesting materials, you should ask for “The Museum of Modern Art" [Collection Title]; [MoMA microfilm reel number, frame number]. For example, to see folder 1.6 from the Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Papers you would request “‘The Museum of Modern Art’ Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Papers; mf 2164:760." You may locate the microfilm numbers by searching the finding aids on our holdings page.

The installation photographs of our exhibitions have been digitized, and many can be viewed on ARTstor, a subscription-based resource available at many university and research libraries.

Lastly, the Museum’s press releases have also been digitized and are available on the Press Release Archives website, organized by year. Please note that some of the press releases do not load correctly when viewed using Google Chrome; we recommend that researchers use Mozilla Firefox or Safari for consulting the press releases.

To search across the press releases, researchers may use Google’s Advanced Search. To search, enter the desired keywords, and for “site or domain" enter "http://www.moma.org/docs/press_archives/". This will then search across the collection of digitized press releases. Do keep in mind that due to the occasional inaccuracy in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology, a search may not be comprehensive.

Q. I do not live in the New York metro area. Can I order photocopies, or can the staff of the Museum Archives conduct research on my behalf?

A. Due to the extremely high volume of requests our small staff receives, we cannot offer the service of consulting material and/or making photocopies on behalf of researchers. If you cannot visit, the following contact information will assist you in identifying and hiring a local research assistant who can visit on your behalf:

RESEARCH ASSISTANCE

To identify local graduate students for hire, contact the Columbia University graduate program in art history or the Institute of Fine Arts. The requester should submit a brief proposal outlining the research required, complete contact information, and the amount they are willing to pay. Proposals should be sent to:

Luke Barclay – for MA and PhD students at Columbia lb2226@columbia.edu

Or

Sarah Johnson – for graduate students at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University sarah.johnson@nyu.edu or ifa.program@nyu.edu

Q. I own an artwork. Can the Museum Archives confirm that it is by a particular artist and/or tell me how much it is worth?

A. As a matter of policy, MoMA staff cannot assist in authenticating or appraising works of art that are not in the Museum collection. We recommend you contact one of the following organizations for assistance:

The Appraisers Association of America
386 Park Avenue South, Suite 2000
New York, NY 10016
Phone: (212) 889 5404
Fax: (212) 889 5503
Email: appraisers@appraisersassoc.org
Website: http://www.appraisersassoc.org

Art Dealers Association of America
575 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Tel: 212.940.8590
Fax: 212.940.6484
E-mail: adaa@artdealers.org
Website: http://www.artdealers.org

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Visiting the Museum Archives

Q. How do I schedule an appointment with the MoMA Archives?

A. You may request an appointment using our online form. Our Manhattan reading room is open on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Our Queens reading room is open on Mondays only, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please note that the appointment schedule tends to fill up several weeks in advance.

Before scheduling an appointment, we ask that researchers consult the finding aids (inventories) to collections in our holdings and send us a list of the specific folders they wish to view during their visit. Researchers may search across all of our finding aids on our holdings page. This holdings page also details which collections are housed in Manhattan and which in Queens. A keyword search will produce a list of those finding aids that include the search term entered. You will then need to open each finding aid separately and search within for more detailed information, including the relevant folder or item numbers.

When requesting an appointment, researchers should provide the collection title and folder identifier only (ex. Dorothy Miller Papers, I.14.a-c).

Q. May I bring someone (e.g. a research assistant) with me to my appointment?

A. Yes, provided space allows. If you would like to bring a guest, you must indicate this in your original appointment request. We can only accommodate researchers with sufficient advance notice.

Q. Who can make an appointment in the Museum Archives? Do I need a letter of introduction from a university?

A. The Museum Archives is open to any researcher with a demonstrated need to access archival resources. They need not be affiliated with a particular institution or university. Researchers do not need a letter of introduction.

However, do keep in mind that researchers should exhaust all published resources before consulting the Archives. Archives researchers should be only those who require access to original documentation for specific purposes. You may search the MoMA Library’s catalog online. You may schedule a Library appointment by telephone at (212) 708-9433 or by e-mailing library@moma.org.

Please also keep in mind that the Archives appointment calendar tends to fill up several weeks in advance.

Q. Which collections are housed in Midtown Manhattan, and which in Queens?

A. The collections list on our holdings page is organized by which collections are located in Manhattan, and followed by which are in Queens.

Q. Can I make photocopies or photograph items during my visit?

A. Researchers are permitted to make 50 photocopies of original material per day. The fee for copies is $0.25 per page. Exact change is not needed. Payment is accepted in U.S. dollars or by personal check made out to “The Museum of Modern Art," drawn on a U.S. bank. The reference archivist can provide change and a receipt.

All requests for photocopies or digital photographs are at the discretion of the archivist. Requests may be denied due to preservation reasons, among others.

Printouts from microfilm and internal databases are not limited in quantity, but they also cost $0.25 per page.

Researchers may use small, handheld cameras or smartphones to photograph archival materials, provided such photographs are used for study purposes only, and as allowed at the discretion of the archivist. After approving items for photography, the reference archivist will provide the researcher with a sheet that contains the proper citation for each item. This citation sheet must be visible in every photograph taken.

It is the researcher’s responsibility to keep accurate citations for all items photographed, which are required when ordering publication-quality images or requesting permission to quote.

Other equipment, including video cameras and personal scanners, is not permitted in the reading room.

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Permissions and Publishing

Q. How do I cite material consulted in the Archives, and do I need permission to publish it?

A. Researchers must obtain advance permission from the Archives to publish and/or quote from any archival material in our holdings. Please use the following form to ask for permission. It includes sample citation formats. The form can be mailed, faxed, or sent as an e-mail to the Museum Archives.

Download the PDF form (Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

In addition, some collections require the approval of the donors or their estates. Furthermore, the researcher must independently comply with obtaining any necessary permissions from the copyright holder.

Q. How do I obtain images of documents consulted in the Archives for publication?

A. All requests for photographic reproductions and the related permission to publish are handled by SCALA Group, the Museum’s exclusive agent for licensing and distribution of images to outside publishers and researchers.

Within North America, requests for reproductions and permissions should be submitted to Art Resource, SCALA's U.S. representative:

Art Resource
536 Broadway, fifth floor
New York, New York 10012
Phone: (212) 505-8700
Fax: (212) 505-2053
E-mail: requests@artres.com
Website: artres.com

Outside of North America, requests should be submitted directly to SCALA:

SCALA Group S.P.A.
62, via Chiantigiana
50011 Bagno a Antella/Firenze
Italy
Phone: 39 055 6233 200
Fax: 39 055 64 1124
E-mail: firenze@scalarchives.com
Website: scalaarchives.com

Photographs of exhibitions installed in the MoMA galleries, when they exist, have already been digitized and are readily available through SCALA/Art Resource. Other items that have previously been digitized (by request) are similarly readily available. But if an Archives item has not yet been digitized, the researcher must physically identify it within the collection. They may do this during an appointment in the reading room. The researcher will then contact SCALA/Art Resource, who will work with the Museum’s staff to have the item scanned.

Q. I would like to publish an image of a MoMA artwork in my book. How do I obtain permission?

A. All requests for photographic reproductions of Archives materials and the related permission to publish are handled by SCALA Group, the Museum’s exclusive agent for licensing and distribution of images to outside publishers and researchers.

Within North America, requests for reproductions and permissions should be submitted to Art Resource, SCALA's U.S. representative:

Art Resource
536 Broadway, fifth floor
New York, New York 10012
Phone: (212) 505-8700
Fax: (212) 505-2053
E-mail: requests@artres.com
Website: artres.com

Outside of North America, requests should be submitted directly to SCALA:

SCALA Group S.P.A.
62, via Chiantigiana
50011 Bagno a Antella/Firenze
Italy
Phone: 39 055 6233 200
Fax: 39 055 64 1124
E-mail:
Website:
scalaarchives.it

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