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The archives of the Cincinnati Art Museum are an exceptional resource for the study of art history, provenance, social history, and even genealogy, available to Museum staff and to external researchers, authors, educators and students.

Information & Resources

The archives consists of three major collections:

  • The Museum’s institutional archives, which provide a record of our history, operation and activities from 1881 to the present. This collection is extremely valuable, not only for the Art Museum’s own institutional memory, but also for the broader study of art history, both in Cincinnati and beyond. Amongst the highlights of the collection are the records of the Art Museum’s early directors, which include hundreds of letters to and from important American artists of the 19thand 20th centuries. Another treasure is the huge archive of photographs which provide views of the Museum, both inside and out, its exhibitions, staff, and other events from 1886 onwards.
  • The Archives also maintains the records of the Art Academy of Cincinnati (including its predecessor, the McMicken School of Design) for the period 1868 through 1998, when the Academy ended its affiliation with the Art Museum. As well as administrative records relating to the running of the Academy, and an extensive collection of photographs of student art work and activities, the collection also includes student and faculty records, of particular value to researchers since many important local artists, such as Frank Duveneck and Charley Harper, studied and taught at the Academy.
    Please note: our student records only cover the period 1873 to 1947; later records are held by the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
  • The Archives also collects original records and papers of local artists and art organizations. Some of those represented include Rookwood Pottery, the Cincinnati Art Club, Paul Ashbrook, and John E. Weis.
    To support this collection, we also hold files relating to many hundreds of local artists. These files, compiled by the Museum as a reference resource over the last 100 years, typically include newspaper clippings, exhibition announcements, catalogs, and often photographs of artists’ work.

 

Download a list of our archival collections (PDF). This list includes links to detailed finding aids for certain collections available online at the OhioLink Finding Aid Repository.

Please note, all requests for access to records in the Archives’ collection, or to information in those records, are considered on a case by case basis. For more details, see the section below on Access Restrictions.

Access to the Archives’ collections is by appointment only. Please contact us at least 48 hours before your planned visit, but it is recommended that you provide as much notice as possible to ensure you can be accommodated.

Records from the Archives are made available in the Museum’s Mary R. Schiff Library reading room. Regular opening hours are Tuesday – Friday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

When visiting the Archives for the first time, you will be asked to show a picture ID and complete an Archival Researcher Agreement.

Whilst the Archives aims to provide access to the records in its care to the fullest extent possible, requests for access may be refused or limited due to:

  • the physical condition of records;
  • the extent to which an archival collection has been processed (e.g. cataloged);
  • restrictions imposed by donors;
  • the purpose for which access is required;
  • the sensitivity of the records’ contents (i.e. any record that could compromise the Museum’s security or operation, or the privacy of any individual).

 There are also certain categories of record that are not made available to external researchers:

  • records of the Board of Trustees and its committees;
  • personnel files;
  • records relating to the acquisition of objects in the permanent collection (e.g. insurance and appraisal information, prices paid for objects, information on donors, vendors, and lenders, gift agreements, contracts and negotiations)
  • financial and legal records;
  • architectural blueprints.

In certain cases, staff may be able to extract information from otherwise restricted records on your behalf, or to provide access to a redacted version of a record or file.

Where the physical condition of a record makes it unusable, you may be asked to use a copy in place of the original, or staff may be able to extract information on your behalf.

For more information on access issues, please see the Archives’ Access Policy.

If visiting the Archives in person, you may not copy or photograph records without first consulting a member of staff.

Permission to copy material will be granted on a case by case basis, and may be refused if it could result in damage to the records, or if donor, acquisition or legal restrictions prohibit duplication.

When permitted, the copying of records is restricted to the use of a personal camera without the use of a flash. No other self-service copying or reproduction is allowed.

If you are unable to visit in person, copies of archival records can be requested from the Archives. Copies can be provided electronically, mailed, or made available for collection in person. Copy requests are normally completed within 10 working days, but extensive requests will be fulfilled as staff availability and workload permits. The Archives reserves the right to charge a fee to undertake copy requests; we will notify you if this is the case before making any copies.

Copies of records from the Archives may be used only for private study, scholarship, or research. If you wish to quote from or publish in full any record from the Archives you must obtain written permission prior to publication. If the Museum does not hold copyright for the material, it cannot grant permission to publish, and you must therefore secure permission yourself from the copyright holder.

For additional information or to book an appointment:

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (513) 639-2978*

Mary R. Schiff Library and Archives

Cincinnati Art Museum 

953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45202

*Please note, we are unable to answer research inquiries by telephone, which should be sent in writing.

 

Research Inquiries

When submitting a research inquiry, please be sure to include:

  • A brief summary of the research you are undertaking
  • As much detail as possible about the information you are looking for, including any relevant names, places, or dates that may help us to identify relevant material
  • If known, details of the specific collection or records in which you are interested

Inquiries are typically answered within 5 business days.

If an inquiry requires significant research, involving the collection, assembly or extraction of information, you will be encouraged to make an appointment to visit in person. If this is not possible, research will be carried out as staff availability and workload permits. The Archives reserves the right to charge a fee to undertake such requests; we will notify you if this is the case before undertaking any research.

 

Can you help preserve Cincinnati's Art Memory?

Are you an artist from the Greater Cincinnati area? Do you have friends or relatives who are, or were?

Are you part of a local art group or organization?

If so, you might be interested to know that the Cincinnati Art Museum Archives accepts donations of papers and records relating to local artists and art organizations. In our collection we have original materials from Rookwood Pottery, Cincinnati Art Club, Frank Duveneck, Elizabeth Nourse, Paul Ashbrook, and others.

As well as documents reflecting the city’s illustrious art heritage, we also want to ensure our collection represents Cincinnati’s current artistic landscape, so we welcome materials from or about contemporary local artists.

So, if you have documents, photographs, scrapbooks, or other records you think should be preserved and made available to future generations of art historians, please contact the Archives.