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Guide to the New-York Historical Society Collection Accession Registers
1841-1962, 2002
 NYHS-RG 15

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on May 18, 2017
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: New-York Historical Society.
Title: New-York Historical Society collection accession registers
Dates: 1841-1962, 2002
Abstract: The New-York Historical Society collections accession registers include records from 1841-1962 concerning donations to and purchases for the institution. It is unknown how complete the records are. Museum objects were entered to the registers until the early 1940s. Library acquisitions, including books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, and Print Room material, were entered to the registers until 1962.
Quantity: 7.8 Linear feet in 40 volumes and one document box
Call Phrase: NYHS-RG 15
Sponsor: This record group was processed as part of the 2015-2016 N-YHS Institutional Archives project, made possible by a generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation.

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Biographical/Historical Note

In all likelihood, the administrative history of the accession ledgers represented in this record group starts on January 4, 1842. At the New-York Historical Society meeting on that date, as recorded in the minutes, the members in attendance dispensed with the customary recording of recent donations, directing that they be included in the book designated for that purpose. It is quite likely that the book of donations, with entries dating from December 10, 1841, that opens this record group, is the book referred to in the minutes.

January 1842 seems to have marked a change only in the specific recordkeeping practice for donations. Founded in 1804, N-YHS’s first constitution established a Standing Committee to solicit and receive donations, and the by-laws specified that the Committee record the donations on its books and report on them at the Society’s meetings. (See the Related Materials Note.) In 1829, though, the Standing Committee was abolished. The responsibility for recordkeeping for accessions had likely fallen fully on the Librarian by then, and it was the Librarian who reported new donations at the Society meetings. These donations would often be entered into the minutes, though not always. While the various minute books from N-YHS’s early decades include lists of acquisitions to the library and “cabinet,” it is not certain how complete the lists are.

The direction in January 1842 to enter donations into a designated set of books may have been intended both to save time at meetings and to rationalize the recordkeeping for accessions. Nonetheless, the extant records indicate that some level of inconsistency remained in the maintenance of the accession registers while, on the other hand, lists of acquisitions continued to appear at times in the Society meeting minutes. Yet by about 1861 the use of the accession registers appears to be more consistent, though it remains uncertain how complete they are.

To some extent, the accession registers reflect N-YHS’s organization and increasing professionalization in the twentieth century. From the earliest registers in the 1840s until 1924, one set of ledgers included all forms of donations, such as print matter, museum artifacts, manuscripts, photographs, and other forms. This was consistent with the fact that the Librarian was responsible for all these collections, as was the very small staff reporting to him. The spin-off in 1924 of museum and manuscript accessions from the library register under Librarian Alexander Wall may have been just one of his innovations aimed at improving the organization’s professional practices, in this case facilitating the reporting and control of accessions by category. The spin-off of the map and Print Room accessions in 1942 may have served a similar purpose, though by then it also followed changes in the organization.

The use of the museum register ceased in 1938. There is no known documented reason for this, but it is possible that maintaining a handwritten list of new acquisitions in an oversize ledger book may have seemed an outdated practice to the newly-installed museum professionals that arrived that year. The century old registers may have been abandoned in favor of Registrar procedures, object files, Museum and Art Committee reports to the new Board of Trustees, and other recordkeeping practices. The registers continued to be used on the library side of the organization until 1962 when entries stopped.

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Scope and Contents Note

The record group includes the oversize registers of accessions (or, "additions") to New-York Historical Society's collections from December 1841 to 1962. The comprehensiveness of these registers is not known. Recognizable gaps occur in the 1840s and 1850s, with sustained entries beginning in 1861. The earliest entries seem to be donations only; it is unclear when purchases began to be recorded, though these seem to appear regularly by 1879.

There is one set of registers that include accessions of all types of material until 1924. Beginning in 1924, different registers were used for museum, manuscript and library materials. Beginning in 1942, map and Print Room materials, formerly found in the Library register, were entered to a separate register.

Entries for museum accessions ended by 1945. Entries for all other accessions continued until 1962.

The entries are often very detailed, often listing individual items such as photographs, negatives or books. Purchased items often indicate the price paid and the source of funds. Monthly or annual totals by category of object type are found throughout the registers.

It appears that from 1957-1962 purchases and donations were recorded in separate sections of the registers, sometimes with many blank pages between the sections. Researchers should be sure not to overlook these separate sections.

Loose documents were found behind the covers or between pages of some of the registers. These were typically worksheets totaling accession counts, additional notes or details on particular donations, and small notes and other incidental documents. The container list notes in which registers loose documents were found. Loose documents of an atypical nature are noted in the container list. Among these is a procedural document for accessioning library material, found in the 1950-1952 register.

Several of the registers are stamped as having been bound in the 1930s or in 1951 by N-YHS's Bindery. These are noted in the container list.

Arrangement Note

The record group includes 39 volumes that advance in rough chronological order (a 40th volume is blank). For the earliest years in the record group (1840s until about 1870), there is some inconsistency in the sequence of the registers. From about 1870 to 1924, the registers are reliably chronological across the entire collection. In 1924, arrangement took on a format dimension as museum and manuscript accessions were entered into separate registers from library accessions; in 1952, map and Print Room materials also began to be recorded in separate registers. Nonetheless, within each format, the arrangement remained chronological.

Some loose documents were found in the registers. These were removed and foldered in a document box as noted in the container list. There are notes in the folder as to where precisely the documents were found in each accession register.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Accessions registers

Subject Organizations

  • New-York Historical Society. Library -- Sources
  • New-York Historical Society. -- Archives

Subject Topics

  • Acquisitions (Libraries) -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Libraries -- Gifts, legacies
  • Museum registration methods -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Museums -- Acquisitions -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Museums -- Collection management -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • New York (N.Y.) -- History -- Societies, etc.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote to: Manuscript Curator, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024.

Preferred Citation Note

This record group should be cited as New-York Historical Society collection accession registers (NYHS-RG 15), The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials Note

This finding aid relates to just one record group of the New-York Historical Society archives. For information about the other record groups and for overall information about the archives, please see the Guide to the New-York Historical Society Archives (NYHS-RG Archives). Other record groups that are processed and available to researchers and are especially related to the New-York Historical Society collection accession registers (NYHS-RG 15) are as follows:

Donations to N-YHS during its first twenty years were recorded in a book by its Standing Committee. Also, the Society minute books often include the donations as reported by the Librarian or presented at the meetings by other members. These various books can be found in the New-York Historical Society management committee records (NYHS-RG 1). The so-called "official papers," also in record group NYHS-RG 1, include some donation and purchase lists. The minutes can also be reviewed for periods after 1842 and before 1861 or so when the entries to the accession registers seem to become more regularized.

At times, N-YHS also published print versions of their acquisitions. For example, N-YHS's Proceedings, published for the years 1843-1849, include such detailed lists.

The New-York Historical Society general correspondence record group (NYHS-RG 2) includes correspondence regarding offers and donations, though these may not always make clear what acquisitions were actually made.

Processing Information Note

The record group was processed in September 2015 by archivist Larry Weimer.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Book of Donations

Scope and Contents Note

Includes loose sheets originally found inside the front cover of the first accessions register.

1841 December-1843
Volume: RG15.1 Folder : - Accessions

Scope and Contents Note

Most of the entries do not indicate the month and day so it cannot be discerned whether or not each year is fully represented in the register. Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1936.

1842 January-May, 1845-1847, 1851 January-February
Volume: RG15.2 Folder : - Accessions

Scope and Contents Note

The entries for 1852 indicate month and day only through early April, followed by an undated list of donations, presumably also from 1852 though it cannot be discerned whether or not the year is fully represented in the register. The end pages of the register were used for other lists; those lists identifiable are of individuals receiving tickets on February 19, 1852, "for the anniversary"; of Executive Committee members; and of proposed new members and their sponsors. Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1936.

1852, 1854-1856 May
Volume: RG15.3 Folder : - Accessions

Scope and Contents Note

Inside pages refer to the contents as a Register of Donations. Bound by N-YHS July 2 1936.

1854 November, 1858 January-March, 1861-1870
Volume: RG15.4 Folder : - Accessions

Scope and Contents Note

The 1862-1863 entries include only acquisitions made through the Grosvenor, Demilt and Thomas Funds. For entries from 1871 to the end of the register, the preprinted heading of the inside pages reads "Catalogue of Additions," however the first page's heading was manually altered to read "Catalogue of Donations." It is not certain when purchases begin to be recorded; the earliest found during processing was dated March 1879. Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1936.

1862 December-1863, 1871-1882 November
Volume: RG15.5 Folder : - Accessions

Scope and Contents Note

Preprinted inside heading reads "Register of Additions." Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1936.

1882 November-1890
Volume: RG15.6 Folder : - Accessions

Scope and Contents Note

Preprinted inside heading reads "Register of Additions." Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1936.

1891-1894
Volume: RG15.7 Folder : - Accessions

Scope and Contents Note

Preprinted inside heading reads "Register of Additions." Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1936.

1895-1898 November
Volume: RG15.8 Folder : - Register of Additions
1898 November-1900 February
Volume: RG15.9 Folder : - Register of Additions
1900 February-1901 November
Volume: RG15.10 Folder : - Register of Additions (1 of 2)
1901 November-1904 October
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Register of Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.10

Scope and Contents Note

Documents include "a weekly paper published at Birsat(?) Syria Palestine, bought by Mr. J. Dennis," October 23, 1860; document is in Arabic(?).

1860, [1901-1904?]
Volume: RG15.11 Folder : - Register of Additions
1904 October-1907 April
Volume: RG15.12 Folder : - Register of Additions
1907 April-1909 June
Volume: RG15.13 Folder : - Register of Additions
1909 May-1911 July
Volume: RG15.14 Folder : - Register of Additions
1911 July-1914 April
Volume: RG15.15 Folder : - Register of Additions (1 of 2)
1914 April-1917 November
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Register of Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.15
[1914-1917?]
Volume: RG15.16 Folder : - Register of Additions (1 of 2)
1917 November-1919 November
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Register of Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.16
[1917-1919?]
Volume: RG15.17 Folder : - Register of Additions (1 of 2)
1919 November-1922 April
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Register of Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.17

Scope and Contents Note

Documents include a list of bills paid by Samuel Hoffman in 1920 and a marketing brochure for The American Art Library.

[1919-1922?]
Volume: RG15.18 Folder : - Register of Additions
1922 May-1924 June
Volume: RG15.19 Folder : - Museum Accessions (1 of 2)
1924-1936
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Museum Accessions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.19

Scope and Contents Note

Includes a few donation and donor lists from 1937-38.

1937-1938
Volume: RG15.20 Folder : - Museum Accessions

Scope and Contents Note

Bound by N-YHS May 16, 1935.

1937-1938 September
Volume: RG15.21 Folder : - Manuscript Additions
1924-1937
Volume: RG15.22 Folder : - Library Additions (1 of 2)
1924 July-1926 October
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Library Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.22

Scope and Contents Note

Includes the marketing brochure, The Collector's Book List for 1925.

1925
Volume: RG15.23 Folder : - Library Additions
1926 October-1928 October
Volume: RG15.24 Folder : - Library Additions (1 of 2)
1928 October-1931 April
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Library Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.24
ca. 1928-1931
Volume: RG15.25 Folder : - Library Additions (1 of 2)
1931 April-1935 May
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Library Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.25
1932-1935
Volume: RG15.26 Folder : - Library Additions (1 of 3)

Scope and Contents Note

Bound by N-YHS May 16, 1935

1935 June-1938 March
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Library Additions (2 of 3). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.26
1935-1938
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Library Additions (3 of 3). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.26
1936-1937
Volume: RG15.27 Folder : - Manuscript Additions (1 of 2)
1938-1953
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Manuscript Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.27
1938-1953
Volume: RG15.28 Folder : - Library Additions (1 of 2)

Scope and Contents Note

Bound by N-YHS May 16, 1935.

1938 March-1940 July
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Library Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.28
1939-1940
Volume: RG15.29 Folder : - Library Additions (1 of 2)
1940 August-1942 December
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Library Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.29
1940
Volume: RG15.30 Folder : - [Accession Book]

Scope and Contents Note

This register appears to include both museum and library (including manuscript and Print Room) donations. The columns in the register suggest that it operated as perhaps a control log across departments in an effort to ensure that all gifts were acknowledged, but the actual relation of this register to the others in this record group is unclear.

1943-1945
Volume: RG15.31 Folder : - Map and Print Room Additions (1 of 2)

Scope and Contents Note

Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1951.

1942-1952
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Map and Print Room Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.31
ca. 1952
Volume: RG15.32 Folder : - Library Additions (1 of 2)
1943-1946
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Library Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.32
1943-1946
Volume: RG15.33 Folder : - Library Additions (1 of 2)
1947-1949
Box: 1 Folder : 17 Library Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.33
1947-1949
Volume: RG15.34 Folder : - Library Additions (1 of 2)
1950-1952
Box: 1 Folder : 18 Library Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.34

Scope and Contents Note

Includes a document describing the procedural steps for accessioning library, manuscript and Print Room materials.

1950-1952
Volume: RG15.35 Folder : - Library Additions

Scope and Contents Note

Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1951.

1953-1955 October
Volume: RG15.36 Folder : - Map and Print Room Additions

Scope and Contents Note

The entries go through July 20, 1962, in the opening pages of the register. Then there are a few blank pages leading to two entries from 2002 for what appears to have been a short-lived attempt to reinstitute the use of the register. After many blank pages, toward the very back of the register are additional entries for 1957-1962; these appear to be purchases recorded separately from donations during this period. Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1951.

1953-1962 July, 2002 February-May
Volume: RG15.37 Folder : - Manuscript Additions (1 of 2)

Scope and Contents Note

Additional entries for March 1957-October 1962 are found at the back of the register; these appear to be purchases recorded separately from donations during this period. Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1951.

1954-1962 October
Box: 1 Folder : 19 Manuscript Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.37
1961
Volume: RG15.38 Folder : - Library Additions

Scope and Contents Note

Additional entries for March 1957 through December 1958 are found at the back of the register; these appear to be purchases recorded separately from donations during this period. Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1951.

1955 November-1958
Volume: RG15.39 Folder : - Library Additions (1 of 2)

Scope and Contents Note

Entries for purchases are at the front of the register, followed after several blank pages by entries for donations. Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1951.

1959-1962 August
Box: 1 Folder : 20 Library Additions (2 of 2). Loose Sheets Removed From Vol. RG15.39
1961-1962
Volume: RG15.40 Folder : - Manuscript Additions [Blank]

Scope and Contents Note

There are no entries in this register. Bound by N-YHS July 2, 1951.

undated

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