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Whitney Museum of American Art Exhibition Records

Identifier: NNWhit.001

Scope and Contents note

The collection comprises records produced by staff members in multiple museum departments that pertain to the development, planning, publicity and maintenance of exhibitions presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art over the span of seventy-three years. Records include correspondence, photographs, checklists, installation layouts, loan agreements, condition reports, press releases and other materials that provide primary documentation of the Whitney’s expansive exhibition history.


  • 1931-2004

Conditions Governing Access

Some materials may be restricted, please contact Archivist for further details.

Conditions Governing Use

The Frances Mulhall Achilles Library Archives at the Whitney Museum of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use only. It is the user's responsibility to determine and obtain any necessary permissions from the Whitney Museum and other rights holders to reproduce and publish material from the collections.

The copyright law of the United States (title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproductions. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

Privacy and Personally Identifiable Information
Manuscript collections that include twentieth and twenty-first century archival materials may contain sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state “right to privacy” laws. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal cause for action if facts concerning an individual’s private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person. Researchers agree to make no notes or other recordation of privacy protected information if found within the archival collections, and further agree not to publish, publicize, or disclose such information to any other party for any purpose if found within the archival collections.

Historical note

The Whitney Museum of American Art, founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and opening in 1931, was established as a place for American artists to exhibit their works. Using the space to show both permanent collection works as well as taking on exhibitions consisting of loaned artwork, the Museum has a vibrant and important place in the history of art.

Its first exhibition, opening on November 1931 at 10 West 8th Street with Juliana Force as first Director, showcased works from the permanent collection which was developed under Mrs. Whitney’s former Whitney Studio (1908), Whitney Studio Club (1914), and Whitney Studio Galleries (1928). The Whitney’s Annual and Biennial exhibitions, beginning in 1932, invite artists to show their works and give both established and emerging artists an opportunity to be recognized in a museum setting.

In 1954, the Whitney moved to 22 West 54th Street and with a growing permanent collection and need for more space, a decision was made to build a new museum at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street with Marcel Breuer as the architect. The Whitney’s addition of Branch Museums allowed both exhibitions of Permanent Collection works and young artists to be presented to a wider audience. The five branches were the Downtown Branch (1973-1983), Fairfield County (1973-1984; 1988-1992), Equitable (1983-2002), WMAA at Federal Reserve Plaza (1988-1992) and Philip Morris/ Altria (1993-2008).

Along with the Annuals and Biennials, the Whitney Museum has organized significant exhibitions including American Genre: The Social Scene in Paintings and Prints (1935), European Artists in America (1945), Nature in Abstraction: The Relation of Abstract Painting and Sculpture to Nature in Twentieth-Century American Art (1958), Anti-Illusion (1969), Calder’s Circus (1972), 200 Years of American Sculpture (1976), Jasper Johns (1977), Nam June Paik (1982), and Nan Goldin: I’ll Be Your Mirror (1996).


210.0 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Whitney Museum Exhibition Records document the efforts of multiple Museum departments in planning and presenting exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art over the span of seventy-three years. Materials include correspondence, contracts, artists’ proposals, statements, CVs, photographs, checklists, press releases, announcements, brochures, articles, installation layouts, didactic texts, and other materials.

Arrangement note

The exhibition records are organized chronologically by the opening date of each exhibition. The records from 1930-1970 were processed in the 1980s. Beginning in 2001, there was an effort to continue processing Exhibition files and their arrangement was changed to reflect the larger organizational structure of the institution as well as the increased number of records created in the planning of each exhibition. The records are processed according to guidelines that do not reflect the original order of the files. More recent Exhibition files are taken from Curatorial records, while the earlier ones were processed from centralized files that combined both Curatorial and Registration files.

Separated Materials note

Note that material related to Edward Hopper is found in the Edward Hopper Research collection.

Exhibitions held at Whitney branch museums were processed separately into individual collections.

Finding aid prepared by staff at the Frances Mulhall Achilles Library & Archives
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Repository Details

Part of the Whitney Museum of American Art Archives, New York, NY Repository

Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort St.
New York, NY 10014 United States

Access to the Archives:

Researchers may consult archival materials on-site at the Frances Mulhall Achilles Library and Archives in West Chelsea. To request an appointment, please send an email to with the following information:
Note: This platform contains information about archival collections only. To search for Library and Special Collections resources, please visit To search for information about artists and artworks in the Museum’s permanent collection, please visit