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Archives Collections

What are the Archives?
Our Archives collect, organize, preserve, and enable access to the Brooklyn Museum’s history. Our goal is to help local and international scholars and researchers find answers to their questions and promote equity through expanding access to the historical narrative.

What is in the Archives?
The Archives contain over 80 collections, with the earliest document dating back to 1823. Totaling over 3,200 linear feet of records, they include letters, photographs, bills, layouts, and other documents created by people who worked in all of our departments, from Audiovisual to Visitor Services.

Below are finding aids for 14 collections. Finding aids describe the contents and order of the records, with brief descriptions of the materials each folder contains. They also provide general histories of the departments and biographies of the people who created the records. Archivists write finding aids as they work on, or “process,” collections. Collections that do not presently have finding aids are not yet processed, but they are inventoried on internal databases that can be searched by the archivist [see below]. We are working to provide greater access to our holdings. Please browse and search the finding aids to see the range of material in our processed collections.

How do I access the Archives?
The Archives are available to all researchers on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, 1–4:30 pm, by appointment only. To request an appointment (or to search the entirety of our Archives), please submit a research inquiry form. Because of the high number of inquiries we receive, it may take over a month for us to reply. We consider each request carefully and respond as quickly as possible. After replying, we will work with you to schedule an appointment one to two weeks in advance. To keep researchers and our collections safe, when you arrive for your appointment, you will be escorted to and from the Reading Room via a staircase or elevator. We look forward to being of service and enabling everyone to access our history.

Our finding aids are organized into four areas: curators' collections, departmental records, artist and donor collections, and collection-level descriptions for unprocessed collections. Please consult our citation format when referencing material from the Archives.

Curators' Collections

The Guide to the Culin Archival Collection (18711933)
Stewart Culin (1858–1929) was the Brooklyn Museum's first curator of ethnology and an early expert in anthropology. A Guide to the Culin Archival Collection provides a chronology of Culin's life, a detailed description of the collection, as well as a bibliography of publications written by Culin.
View Online Finding Aid

The Guide to the Goodyear Archival Collection (18741940)
William Henry Goodyear (1846–1923) was the Brooklyn Museum's first curator of fine arts and a renowned art and architectural historian. The Guide to the Goodyear Archival Collection provides a biography of Goodyear, a detailed description of the collection, as well as bibliographies of articles and books written by and about Goodyear.
View Online Finding Aid

Departmental Records

Records of the Department of the Arts of Africa, the Pacific, and the Americas (AAPA) (19292001)
The records of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Asia and the Pacific contain information relating to the development of the department including its projects and exhibitions and the research and activities of the curators, including the work of Herbert J. Spinden, scholar in Mayan art.
View PDF Finding Aid

Records of the Department of Asian Art (19252003)
The records of the Department of Asian Art contain information on the development of the department and of the Asian and Islamic collections. The materials document the administrative and curatorial activities of the department, which include records relating to exhibitions, objects and other activities of the curators.
View PDF Finding Aid

Records of the Department of Costumes and Textiles (19112004)
The records of the Department of Costumes and Textiles document the history of the department and the collection. Included are records regarding the establishment in 1948 and operation of the Edward C. Blum Design Laboratory. Through its membership program, the Design Lab influenced fashion designers and manufacturers by making costume and textile works available to members for research.
View PDF Finding Aid

Records of the Department of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Art (ECANEA) (1890s2002)
The records of the Department of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Art cover the history of the Museum's Egyptian antiquities collection and the scholarship of prominent staff Egyptologists. The collection features the correspondence of Egyptologists Charles Edwin Wilbour, Jean Capart, and Bernard Bothmer.
View PDF Finding Aid

Records of the Departments of European Painting and Sculpture, American Painting and Sculpture, and Contemporary Art (18972005)
This guide contains information on the records relating to the growth of the Department of Painting and Sculpture, which has recently been divided into three distinct departments. The collection includes information on departmental projects and exhibitions and the research and activities of the Brooklyn Museum curators.
View PDF Finding Aid

Records of the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs (18782001)
The records of the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs trace the history of the department from its early inception. Records of the National Print Exhibitions, held annually or biennially from 1947, are particularly important, as is correspondence with printmakers who sold and donated their work to the Museum, and used the Museum's presses for printing.
View PDF Finding Aid

Records of the Brooklyn Museum Art School (19411985)
The records of the Brooklyn Museum Art School contain information relating to the development and projects of the art school, a non-degree-granting professional school, which opened at the Brooklyn Museum in the summer of 1941. The Brooklyn Museum Art School faculty provided instruction for amateur artists until January 1985. Among its noted instructors were Augustus Peck, Toshio Odate (pictured), Ben Shahn, Donald Judd, and Max Beckmann.
View PDF Finding Aid

Artist, Donor and Scholar Collections

Arthur W. Clement Papers (17941952, n.d., bulk: 19341952)
Arthur W. Clement (1878–1952) was a collector of early American ceramics and an important donor of ceramics to museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum. The papers in this collection relate to his research in American Decorative Arts, his business relationship with museums and curators, and his acquisition of objects.
View PDF Finding Aid

Emil Fuchs Papers (18801931)
Emil Fuchs (1866–1929) was a medalist, sculptor, and painter who was friendly with artists including John Singer Sargent and Daniel Chester French. During his lifetime he accepted commissions by distinguished individuals, such as members of the British Royal family. Included in these papers are his correspondence and an album of sketches, invitations, letters, autographs, and other ephemera.
View PDF Finding Aid

The Guide to the Wilbour Archival Collection (18331935, bulk: 18801896)
Starting in 1916, the heirs of American Egyptologist Charles Edwin Wilbour (1833–1896) donated his collection of Egyptian antiquities, books and personal papers to the Brooklyn Museum. The Wilbour Archival Collection, which includes correspondence, notebooks, squeezes, and inscriptions, provides insight into his research and travels.
View PDF Finding Aid

Guide to the Wilbour family papers (18491896)
The Wilbour family papers are comprised of documents pertaining to American Egyptologist Charles Edwin Wilbour, his children, Evangeline, Theodora, Victor, and Zoe, and his wife, Charlotte Beebee Wilbour. The bulk of this collection consists of letters written to Zoe Wilbour between 1880 and 1885, though documents such as balance sheets, drawings, postcards, calling cards, and ephemera are present as well.
View PDF Finding Aid

Allen Wardwell Papers (17911998, n.d., bulk: 19581998)
Allen Wardwell (1935–1999) was a scholar, collector and curator of Northwest Coast Indian, Oceanic and African art. These papers relate to his research and publications and include descriptions of objects, images, articles, letters, reprints, museum bulletins and clippings.
View PDF Finding Aid

Unprocessed Collections

Chief Curator records (1969–2002)
Extent: 41.75 Linear Feet
The Chief Curator records consist of the files and records documenting the activities of the Chief Curators of the Brooklyn Museum between the years 1969 and 2002. These Chief Curators include: Ferber, Kan, Johnson, Miller, Sobas, Stayton, Wilkinson. These departmental materials contain correspondence and general or interoffice records relating to exhibition planning, objects, gifts, purchases, deaccessions, photographs, surveys, reviews, loan requests, grants, bequests, collections policies, curatorial administration files, board, trustee, and governance meetings files, budgets, and memoranda.

Conservation Department records (1936–2001)
Extent: 26.5 Linear Feet
The Conservation department records consist of the files for exhibitions, installations, rotations and reinstallations. Materials include art collection transfers, notices of arrival, storage areas, capital projects, correspondence, administrative files, collections management system selection, conservation staff files, interoffice/interdepartmental memos, watermarks, radiographs, Hygrothermograph charts, environmental readings of building wings, temperature and humidity readings, examination, condition, treatment notes and reports for objects, framing, loans, claims, and deaccessions, files containing slides, photographs and negatives relating to treatment. Specific projects names and affiliates include: Borough Hall restoration, Machine Age: Drewes, W., Sheldon and Caroline Keck, Peto and Harnett, Theodore Starr, and the Exploratory Conference on Conservation. Departments include: Decorative Arts; P&S; C&T; P&D; Asian Art.

Special Programs records (1935-1959)
Extent: 3.6 linear feet
The Special Programs records consist of fellowship and intern program scrapbooks as well as the Work Project Administration (WPA) administrative files: ledgers, applications, inspection reports, blueprints, memos and correspondence.

Office of the Registrar records (1930-2002)
Extent: 62.9 Linear Feet
While primary responsibility for the generation and execution of exhibitions rests with the curatorial department, certain functions are performed by the Registrar's office. Records reflecting these functions include loan agreements, outward loan forms, releases, receipts, insurance forms, packing and shipping orders and invoices, and condition notes. The Registrar's exhibition files also include materials which parallel or augment curatorial files, such as lists of objects, appraisals, entry forms, catalog proofs, photographs, installation sketches and notes, press releases, and invitations. The series includes several files for exhibitions pre-dating the establishment of the Registrar's Office. These contain, in addition to a few memos, lists, and receipts contemporary with the exhibitions, Registrar's forms from later years (primarily 1936) when staff was attempting to formalize loan or return of exhibition materials still in the building. In the first decade, many of the files include exhibition and object numbers; the exhibition numbers are recorded in the file number field in the database. These tie in to the "Special Exhibitions" card file in the Registrar's Office, an index to lenders. The numbers and numbering system, however, are not always consistent or understandable (many exhibitions, for example, have the exhibition number 30 with a suffix that seems to follow no logical order). The records accessioned included two types of files: functional, documenting the work of the Registrar's Office, and reference, containing only materials received about exhibitions (press releases, brochures, flyers, catalogs).

Collections Management Department records (1984-1998)
Extent: 5.83 Linear Feet
The Collections Management Department records consist of exhibition files, acquisitions committee meeting files, collections management computer systems and search files, collections and art transfers, installation, gallery reinstallation, and storage area files.

Development Department records (1955-2004)
Extent: 55.3785 Linear Feet
The Development Department records consist of foundation files and records documenting grants, programs, and special projects related to fundraising at the Brooklyn Museum. These include: files on the activities of personnel; exhibits; educational and outreach programs; library and archives; archeological expeditions; events; and published works. Materials include trustee files, case statements, correspondence, administrative records, reports on campaign goals, survey results, contribution lists and acknowledgements, exhibition files, strategic planning documents, government grant applications, reports, correspondence, tax information, and financial reports.

Brooklyn Institute: General department records (1848–1983)
Extent: 151.625 Linear Feet
The Brooklyn Institute: General Department records consist of files and records documenting activities of the Directors and other administrative leadership at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts & Sciences between the years 1848 and 1983. These materials include correspondence and accession records; minute books; financial records; legal files, contracts; publications; charters; and reporting. There are financial and investment records; legal files and documents including deeds, mortgages, correspondence and accession records, schedule of members, addenda, publications, news clippings, weekly tickets and attendance, and payment voucher scrapbooks.

Design Department records (1982–2005)
Extent: 8.5 Linear Feet
The Design Department records consist of files on exhibitions and installations. Materials include correspondence, memos, sketches, floor plans, didactic and label text, publications, brochures, print samples, lists, budgets, plans, photographs, museum departmental administration files, nameplates, labels, didactics, signs/signage, text panels, photograph and poster designs, presentation drawings, pages from large scale comment and drawing books, fashion sketches, swatch cards created by Design Lab staff. Specific names and affiliates: Andre Fashions, Pearl Alexander, Du Barry Fashion Studios, Harry Haas, Richard Waller, Wesley Simpson, Jeffrey Strean, Mike Rizzo.

Brooklyn Art Association records (1864-1919)
Extent: 10.13 Linear Feet
Brooklyn Art Association minutes, 1864-1905 (Item)
Brooklyn Art Association minutes, 1906-1919 (Item)
Brooklyn Art Association membership ledger, 1873-1891 (Item)
Brooklyn Art Association Executive Committee minutes, 1883-1887 (Item)
Brooklyn Art Association stock transfer negotiations (1 of 3), 1906-1908 (File)
Brooklyn Art Association stock transfer negotiations (2 of 3), 1906-1908 (File)
Brooklyn Art Association stock transfer negotiations (3 of 3), 1906-1908 (File)
Brooklyn Art Association receipts and disbursements ledger, 1896-1924 (Item)
Brooklyn Art Association building illustration, 1876 (Item)