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American Folk Art Museum Archives

The American Folk Art Museum Archives collects, preserves, arranges, describes, and makes accessible archival material in three distinct categories: museum history files; special collections; and secondary source subject, people, and folk art files. The archival material supports and enriches the museum’s mission and fulfills its 1961 charter, which mandated the creation of a museum, library, and educational center to provide dedicated exhibition space for art by the self-taught and to be a center for scholarship and education.

Museum history files include material related to past exhibitions; the papers of former directors, trustees, and curators; records related to educational partnerships and programs, public programming, and events; and other records related to the history of the museum.

Special collections include material in a variety of formats created by the people who have shaped the field of folk art. These include artist’s collections as well as collections created by dealers, collectors, and scholars.

Subject, people, and folk art files include alphabetical groupings of secondary source material, such as news clippings, published articles, photographs, and similar material. People files include material about artists and other individuals in the field. Folk art files are the newsletters, exhibition-related printed matter, and bulletins published by other institutions in the field of folk art.

Finding Aids

Finding aids are the tools used to navigate the collections within the above categories. They are research guides that describe a collection’s contents, biographical or institutional history of the creators, provenance, and access information, which can include restrictions, handling instructions, citations, and more. The finding aid also describes how the collection is physically arranged, providing a kind of map for accessing the content.

The finding aid gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the collection, and gives researchers a guide to the material, which facilitates access.

Searching the Database

Search or browse finding aids for the archival material in the American Folk Art Museum Archives.

The search engine looks for records containing every term you submit. To filter the results of a keyword search, use the left navigation bar to refine the results.

To access the archives, visit Research at the Reading Room.

For questions, e-mail