Harvard Art Museums Archives

Harvard Art Museums Archives

Harvard Art Museums Archives


Students from Paul Sachs’ course “Museum Work and Museum Problems” meet with the Fogg Museum’s Registrar to learn about the registration of museum objects, 1944. Courtesy Harvard Art Museums Archives.

The Archives collects, organizes, and preserves the institution’s historical documents and makes them available to students, scholars, and interested members of the international art community. Its mission is to document and promote knowledge and appreciation of the Art Museums’ history, programs, and goals, and the professional and personal accomplishments of its principals.

Archival materials, crucial to the Art Museums’ institutional memory, mandate, and mission, supply a vital complementary narrative to the works of art themselves, recording their acquisition, history, and use. Holdings include significant papers of individuals and groups associated with the Art Museums’ history, as well as comprehensive materials on the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums, which integrated to form the Harvard University Art Museums (now the Harvard Art Museums) in 1983.

Documents and artifacts in the Harvard Art Museums Archives date from the opening of the Fogg Museum in 1895 to the present. The Archives contains letters, photographs, scrapbooks, glass lantern slides, audio- and videotapes, motion picture films, architectural drawings, student works, and digital files, as well as over 3,000 printed volumes, consisting largely of Art Museums publications, catalogues, and supporting materials. 

The Archives provides insight into the formation of the Art Museums’ collections and the museum’s mission as a teaching institution. Harvard was arguably the premier training ground in the country for curators, conservators, and other museum professionals; the Archives’ collections of teaching-related materials serve as rich resources for the study of the pedagogical approaches of Art Museums’ teaching staff.

Highlights include correspondence with collectors, gallery owners, museum professionals, and notables throughout the 20th century, including Alfred Barr, Bernard Berenson, Belle da Costa Greene, Lincoln Kirstein, Helen Frick, and Abby and John D. Rockefeller. The Archives is strong in documentation related to museum theory and practice, and also includes papers of artists Alfonso Ossorio, David Smith, Chaim Soutine, and Denman W. Ross, among others. In addition, the Archives holds the records of the Howard Wise Gallery, a major venue for kinetic art in the 1960s.

Accessing the Archives

While the building at 32 Quincy Street is closed for renovation and expansion, archival materials can be made available for research. Researchers must contact the Archives as far in advance of a visit as possible; a minimum of three weeks is requested. Research visits may be scheduled Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm by contacting the Archives at am_reference [at] harvard [dot] edu or by calling 617-495-2384.

Harvard Art Museums Archives Staff

General Inquiries: am_reference [at] harvard [dot] edu or 617-495-2384

Megan Schwenke, Acting Archivist, Records Manager
Brooke McManus, Archives Assistant