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Archives of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Appointments required

Hours: 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Friday (excluding holidays)
Location: Library Reading Room, 2nd Floor, Perelman Building

The Archives serves as the Museum’s corporate memory and documents the key activities of our directors, curators, and virtually all other departments involved in programs and operations since our founding in 1876. Our collections also include the personal papers and manuscript collections of people related to the Museum, which helps us tell the story of the institution and its collections. The Archives staff works with the Library to provide reference services for our records. Archivists guide Museum staff on proper records management practices for electronic and paper files to ensure that significant documentation is preserved for future generations.

Collections and research

The Archives holds a variety of materials, including corporate records, manuscripts, personal papers, ephemera, scrapbooks, photographs, and artifacts which chronicle the history of our institution. We have directors' records, departmental records, personal papers, and manuscript collections.

Some examples of frequently requested material:
  • Important historical precedents
  • Provenance-related documentation about works of art
  • Correspondence of the directors, curators, and other key staff
  • Information about donors and collections at the Museum
  • Exhibition views from prior shows
  • Images of staff, donors, and notable visitors
  • Personal papers of notable artists such as Marcel Duchamp and George Grey Barnard


Access

The Museum Archives are used for all types of research and we will be happy to provide assistance. When you are planning your visit, please fill out our appointment form at least one week in advance.

We recommend you provide a list of collections, boxes, and folders you wish to consult, so your materials can be pulled in time for your appointment. Please consult our Finding Aids, which are descriptive inventories for our collections.

When you arrive for your appointment, we will ask you to fill out a registration form and follow our Access Procedures. You are welcome to use a laptop, digital camera, tablet, and/or smartphone.

The Archives provides access to the Museum’s records and manuscripts to the fullest extent possible on a fair and equitable basis. Certain materials are restricted to protect individual privacy rights and proprietary rights of the Museum.

Copies of archival materials may be made under the Museum’s Fair Use Policy. Scanning and photocopying can be arranged through the Archives staff. For more information, please call (215) 684-7659 or email .

The Archives does not appraise materials. Please contact the American Society of Appraisers, P.O. Box 17265, Washington, D. C., 20041 at 1-800-272-8258 for a list of appraisers in a specific geographic area.


Procedure

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is pleased to make its archival collections available to researchers, but requests their full cooperation in adhering to the following guidelines:

  • Personal belongings such as coats, briefcases, handbags, etc., should not be placed on the research table; items used for research (i.e. pencils, paper, laptop computers) are allowed.
  • Researchers will receive permission to examine materials after filling out a Researcher Registration Form. This form includes an agreement to be signed that indicates that the researcher has read the Access Procedures and a warning concerning copyright law. The Researcher Registration Form, along with a list of records pulled, will be kept on file by the Archivist.
  • The Archivist will conduct a brief reference interview with the researcher, to determine areas of interest, possible search strategies, and a time frame for research.
  • Researchers should consult relevant finding aids to better acquaint themselves with the scope and content of the records they wish to access.
  • Materials in the Museum’s Archives do not circulate, and can only be used in the reading room with Library & Archives staff present. Staff will remove and return all materials to storage areas for patrons.
  • Researchers should examine records one box at a time, one folder at a time, maintaining the order in which they were received. Researchers should notify the Archivist if anything appears to be out of order; do not rearrange the records yourself.
  • Materials may not be removed from the reading room and must be returned in the same condition as when they were received for research. The Museum reserves the right to inspect the researcher’s belongings, and as a condition to obtaining access to the materials, the researcher consents to such search.
  • Please use a common sense approach when handling records:
    • Do not consume food or beverages at the reading table
    • Wash hands before handling materials
    • Only use pencils
    • Do not erase or make marks on the documents
    • Do not trace or write on top of the documents
    • Gloves should be worn only if examining photographic materials
    • Do not bend or crease brittle paper; support it against a stable flat surface, such as a folder or table-top.

    Any improper handling and/or damage will result in materials being taken away from the researcher, and his/her user privileges being suspended.
  • Digital images may be taken with a camera, cell phone, or tablet, as long as the flash is turned off and no tripod is used.
  • Items to be copied should be marked with paper inserts, which the Archivist will provide:
    • Please write your initials on the top of the paper flag, with a date or brief description of the document(s) you’d like copied.
    • Place the flag perpendicularly in front of the desired document(s) in the folder, so when the folder is returned to the box, the flag is visible.
    • Please indicate to the staff if you would like documents scanned or photocopied, along with a time frame for reproduction. Staff will create copies or scans for patrons as a free service.
    • We may be able to copy or scan an order of a few items the same day. Please allow 1-2 weeks for requests of larger quantities.
Please note: when accessing materials, certain types of information may not be available because of restrictions that protect the privacy rights of individuals or organizations, legitimate proprietary rights of the Museum, or for other reasons. However, the bulk of the collection is unrestricted and will be made available to researchers on a fair and equitable basis.


Copyright Notice

The Museum owns the copyright to archival materials produced by the staff of the institution, and in cases where the copyright has been transferred through a deed of gift.

Archival material may be published under our Fair Use Policy. Please use our preferred citation format when referencing or publishing from our collections: [Item identification and date], [Series], [Record Group or Manuscript Collection], Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives.

In the case of third party correspondence and manuscript collections, the Museum often has property rights, but not copyright, to letters, photographs, sound recordings, and other materials.

Authorization to publish or quote from manuscripts must be requested from the owner of the copyright (often the heirs, estate, or literary executor).

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain permission from all copyright holders before publication.

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