The objective of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives is to collect, organize, and preserve in perpetuity the corporate records and official correspondence of the Museum, to make this material accessible and provide research support, and to further an informed and enduring understanding of the Museum’s history. Archives holdings include Board of Trustees records, legal documents, Museum publications, office files of selected Museum staff, architectural drawings, press clippings, and ephemera.
The Archives was established under the Museum’s 1870 Constitution, which states that the secretary of the corporation “shall have custody of and preserve the corporate seal and the archives.” Until the 1960’s the Archives primarily served as a resource for the Museum’s secretary, other officers, and trustees, but has since expanded in scope to serve the needs of the Museum as a whole and the public. The Archives operates under the authority of the Senior Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel of the Museum.
Access Policy and Procedures
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives is accessible to Museum staff and to qualified scholarly researchers at the graduate level and above. Requests for access should be sent via email and should include a brief summary of the research project, an outline of sources already consulted, and a curriculum vitae or résumé. Access is granted at the discretion of Archives staff and certain materials may be restricted. Researchers must read, fill out, and sign the Museum’s Policy and Procedures Governing the Use of Unpublished Material in Museum Files prior to conducting research. By doing so, the researcher agrees to the terms and conditions stated.
All research visits must be scheduled in advance. Regular hours are Monday-Friday 9:30-4:45. Friday evening and Saturday hours may available by special arrangement for researchers working on extended projects. Personal belongings such as coats, purses, briefcases, bags, etc. must be placed away from the work station in an area approved by the Archivist. Items approved for research, such as pencils, paper, and lap-top computers, may be kept with the researcher.
All material in the Archives must be handled with the utmost care. Improper handling and/or damage of archival material may result in the suspension of research privileges. Researchers should look through one folder at a time, maintaining the order in which the documents were delivered. Hands should be washed before handling the documents. Do not mark, erase, fold, tear, or place adhesives of any kind on the documents. The use of pens, indelible pencils, cameras, or any unauthorized device is prohibited. No food or drink is allowed. Take particular care with fragile items.
Photocopies of certain archival materials may be made at the discretion of Archives staff. There is no fee for copies, but quantities may be limited.
The following is a partial list of collections held by the Museum Archives. Catalog records and archival finding aids that describe each collection can be accessed by clicking the title. A finding aid is a descriptive guide for an archival collection. 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.
Office of the Secretary Records, 1870-present
The Havemeyer Family Papers relating to Art Collecting, 1901-after 1982
John Taylor Johnston Collection, 1832-1981
Richard F. Bach Records, 1913-1953
Henry Gurdon Marquand Papers, 1832-1981
Durr Friedley Records, 1906-1918
William Church Osborn Records, 1904-1953
James Parker Records, 1910-2005
Oral History Interviews
Leon Levy Foundation Grant to Process Institutional Records
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has received a generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation to support a project to arrange, describe, and catalog fifteen collections of institutional records. The project will provide open scholarly access to approximately 300 linear feet of fresh primary sources documenting 130 years of the Museum’s history. Collections include records of past Museum directors and senior staff who were intimately involved with the formation, growth, and leadership of the Museum. Individuals whose files will be processed include those of the first salaried director of the Metropolitan Museum, Luigi Palma di Cesnola; the Museum’s fifth director and proponent of educational programming and public outreach, Francis Henry Taylor; former director and head of the U.S. Army’s Museums Fine Arts and Archives Section during World War II, James Rorimer; and Thomas Hoving, best known as the driving force behind the Museum’s “blockbuster” exhibitions during his tenure as director through the 1960s and 1970s. The largest collection (165 linear feet) to be processed as part of the project is the records of the Museum’s Costume Institute department. These files provide an incomparable view inside the department from the 1946 merger of the Museum of Costume Art with the Metropolitan through the 1990s. The collection contains material that chronicles groundbreaking exhibitions coordinated by the legendary Diana Vreeland including The World of Balenciaga (1973), Hollywood Design (1974), The Glory of Russian Costume (1976) and Vanity Fair (1977).
Finding aids are now available online for the following collections processed with funds from the Leon Levy Foundation:
Metropolitan Museum of Art 75th Anniversary Committee records, 1945-1950
Irvine MacManus records related to “Treasures of Tutankhamun” exhibition, 1975-1979
The Metropolitan Museum of Art records regarding International Council of Museums, 1951-1965
Preston Remington records, 1925-1970
Albert Ten Eyck Gardner records, 1824-1970
J. Kenneth Loughry records, 1929, 1943-1971 (bulk 1945-1969)
Joseph V. Noble records, 1931-1970
George Trescher records related to The Metropolitan Museum of Art Centennial, 1949, 1960-1971
James J. Rorimer records, 1924-1983 (bulk 1955-1966)
Theodore Rousseau records, 1928-1974 (bulk 1960-1973)
Office of the Registrar records, 1870-1996
Restricted Museum Records
Access to Museum records is granted at the discretion of Archives staff and certain materials may be restricted to protect individual privacy rights and proprietary rights of the Museum, or because the records have not been processed and prepared for use. Restrictions may be imposed on certain materials including, but not limited to: Board of Trustee and Board Committee minutes, personnel files, financial records, legal actions, donor records, acquisition related records including insurance and appraisal records and conservation reports, prices paid for objects in the Museum’s collections, names of vendors from whom objects are purchased, addresses or phone numbers of Trustees, donors or lenders, gift agreements, contracts or negotiations with donors, lenders, employees or others, and anything that would compromise the Museum’s security or operations.
Publications and Permissions
Permission to study archival material does not include the right to photocopy or publish the contents. Researchers wishing to quote from or publish in full any documents held by the Museum Archives must secure permission to do so in advance. Where the Museum does not have literary rights in the material, it cannot grant permission to publish, and the researcher must therefore secure this permission himself or herself from the author or his or her literary heirs.
Archival Materials Held by Other Museum Departments
The Museum Archives is just one of many departments that provide access to historical records. For example, curatorial offices, the Watson Library and the Digital Media department all hold unique primary source materials that document the collections, exhibitions, educational programs, buildings and staff of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. At present, there is no single search point from which researchers can find archival materials across all Museum departments. However, Museum Archives staff will be happy to assist you with identifying collections that may support your research wherever in the Museum they may reside.
Museum History Resources
Museum Exhibitions 1870-2011 – A chronological list of all special exhibitions held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from its founding in 1870 to the present.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives
Office of the Senior Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028-0198