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Whitney Artists' Correspondence and Ephemera Collection

Identifier: NNWhit.007

Scope and Contents

The collection comprises a selection of original artist correspondence, announcements, invitations and other unique materials collected by Whitney Museum staff in an effort to document the activities and artistic work of American artists. Together they provide insight into the thoughts and conversations of Museum staff and the artists they represented. Much of the correspondence is with artists whose work was included in Whitney exhibitions, or entered the Museum’s Permanent Collection. The correspondence is diverse and ranges from formal requests to writing that is more personal in nature. Select folders also contain hand-drawn artist illustrations and postcards.


  • 1934-2012

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.


12 boxes

Language of Materials



Gathered from Whitney Museum artist files, this collection includes original correspondence, notes, announcements, invitations, and other unique materials that document the activities and artistic work of numerous American artists. The correspondence is diverse and ranges from formal requests to writing that is more personal in nature. Select folders contain hand-drawn artist illustrations and postcards. Made possible with generous support from the Leon Levy Foundation, much of the collection is digitized and available online at the Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York (DCMNY) digital repository.


Materials in this series are arranged in alphabetical order according to the artist’s last name.

Custodial History

The collection of original artist correspondence and other ephemera was primarily retrieved from the Whitney Museum Library Artist File collection. The larger Library Artist File collection is comprised of approximately 400 linear feet of file folders that contain news clippings, magazine articles, gallery and museum brochures, announcements and photographs on thousands of American artists. The collection originated at the time of institution's founding in the 1930s. Over the years, staff members have contributed correspondence, ephemeral material, and other items related to individual American artists for the purposes of documentation and research.

In 1998 library staff found a small box containing a substantial group of original letters by artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, Isabel Bishop, Peter Blume, Charles Burchfield, Vija Celmins, Stuart Davis, and many others. Around this time Library staff also made a concerted effort to retrieve other original letters and rare ephemera for preservation and use.

For a period of approximately ten years, a succession of Library interns and volunteers were directed to conduct a thorough sweep of the artist files and remove any original correspondence and other priority items such as posters on artists' exhibitions, photographs of artists, rare brochures and other unique material. The items were placed into acid free folders and boxes. The posters, and oversized items were placed in large flat boxes. Small but significant and rare exhibition publications were cataloged and added to the online catalog, "WhitneyCat."

Related Materials

Approximately 580 items from the Whitney Museum Library, Artists' Correspondence and Ephemera collection are digitized and available online at the Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York (DCMNY) digital repository. Researchers can consult the digital surrogates at this link:

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Finding aid written in English.

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