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Guide to the New-York Historical Society Museum Department Records
1765, 1830-2018
 NYHS-RG 20

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


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Margaret Kaczorowski, Katherine Palm and Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 21, 2021 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Contents Note

The Museum Department record group includes curatorial, collections management, exhibitions, administrative, and object files created by museum staff. The record group includes some important 19th and early-mid 20th century material but most of the documents date from the 1970s and into the early twenty-first century.

The most extensive portions of the record group concerns exhibitions, especially those from the 1980s to 2012. Although there is great inconsistency in the level of documentation across individual exhibitions, overall the files are rich with checklists, images, loan documentation, publicity material, research files, comment books, wall texts and labels, design elements, budgets and funding requests, and other like matter. In addition to exhibitions installed at N-YHS, the record group also includes files of outgoing loans to other institutions, such as the first ever traveling exhibition of the Audubon watercolors in the 1990s, and proposals and plans for exhibitions that did not go forward.

The record group includes some accession records. These are principally found in the collections management/registrar files for the 1940s-1960s, but 19th century acquisition documents for the Audubon watercolors and the Henry Abbott Egyptian collection are in the files, as selectively compiled correspondence. This correspondence also includes records of the transfer of the Abbott and certain other out of scope collections to the Brooklyn Museum in the 1940s. The record group holds object photograph files, primarily for paintings and drawings, and these hold a small number of accession and other documents as well.

The record group holds the files of three museum directors or curators of the late 20th century, including Mary C. Black (1970-1982), Holly Hotchner (1989-1994), Annette Blaugrund (1989-1995), and to a lesser extent, Jack Rutland (circa 1995-1999). These files, and other general museum files, largely concern exhibition planning, object surveys and inquiries, offers of purchases or donations, and the like. The curatorial staff's records and recommendations related to the Board Museum Committee are in this record group, though these are subject to restrictions; see the Access Restrictions note. The files also include administrative matters, such as budgets, grant proposals, staffing, etc.

In addition to the image files mentioned above, the record group holds other descriptive material for objects, including lantern slides of works by American and European artists, John Delafield's 1830 inventory of ancient coins and medals held by N-YHS, Leonidas Westervelt's inventory of his Jenny Lind Collection, and annotated manuscript versions of Catalogue of American Portraits in the New-York Historical Society (1974),  Glass Paperweights of the New-York Historical Society (1974), and  American Landscape and Genre Paintings in the New-York Historical Society (1982).

Arrangement Note

The record group is organized in six series:

Series I. Select Collections Correspondence

Series II. Exhibitions

Series III. Curatorial and Administration Files

Series IV. Collection Management Files

Series V. Catalogues, Inventories & Surveys

Series VI. Object Images