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The Frances Mulhall Achilles Library at the Whitney Museum of American Art contains a comprehensive research collection in the field of twentieth-century and contemporary American art. It was originally built on the collections of books and papers of founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and the Whitney Museum’s first director, Juliana Force.
Of paramount importance to research and scholarship on American art of the twentieth and twenty-first century, today’s collections of books, periodicals, archives, and special collections are accessed by the Whitney’s own staff as well as by outside scholars and researchers. Combined, these resources chronicle the development, over seventy-five years, of an institution committed to American art and artists.
The Library has reopened in the West Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. It is open daily to Whitney staff and offers limited Library access to Whitney Museum members, visiting art historians, PhD candidates, graduate students, gallery staff, and other high level researchers interested in the Museum, its history, exhibitions, permanent collections, and artists.
In order to schedule an appointment to access Library and Archives material, researchers must first:
Art Resources From the Mid-twentieth Century is a collaborative project between the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum that presents digitized highlights from the personal libraries of Juliana Force and Hilla Rebay, the museums’ respective inaugural directors. This collaboration was generously funded in part by a grant from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO).
The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum have each played a key role in shaping New York’s vital cultural landscape, contributing significantly to the history of art and culture in the United States. Both founded in the 1930s, these museums were also each led by women who served as inaugural directors—the Whitney by Juliana Force, long associate of founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and the Guggenheim, then the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, by Hilla Rebay.
Each director acquired a considerable library during her tenure, collecting materials ranging from gallery announcements to the rare and unusual periodicals and books of that period. These important resources influenced the two women, who in turn influenced the vision and development of their respective institutions and the exhibitions produced.
Working in partnership to both preserve and make Force’s and Rebay’s personal libraries more widely available, the Whitney Library and Guggenheim Library digitized key material from each. The digitized selections, which are displayed together on the Internet Archive to highlight their commonalities and differences, are of special interest to curators, art historians, and other researchers and scholars, including those focusing on museum studies, women’s studies, exhibitions and the history of New York City.
The Whitney Studio Club and Galleries Collection, a project funded through the generous support of the Leon Levy Foundation, brings together the Whitney Museum’s earliest documents in a fully-searchable database. In 2010, archives and exhibition publications from the Whitney’s pre-history were digitized, in an effort to both increase the visibility of these records and to preserve fragile primary source documents. Archival records, photographs, checklists, and catalogs from exhibitions organized by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Juliana Force—respectively, founder and first director of the Whitney Museum—were scanned to create high-quality digital files. Project and Library staff worked to organize and present the digital database, accessible by staff and the public.
The Henry Luce Foundation recently awarded funds to the Whitney Museum to help support two staff positions for the Library: the Project Assistant Archivist and the Library Assistant. The Library Assistant position has been restored for three years, and is charged with circulation and reference services. The Project Assistant Archivist will process records in the Museum’s exhibition archives from the 1990s to the present. These records document the planning and execution of exhibitions shown at the Museum, and include checklists, installation photographs, correspondence, loan forms, press clippings, and other documentation highly sought-after by Museum staff and outside researchers.
Made possible with generous support from the Leon Levy Foundation, the Whitney Artists’ Correspondence and Ephemera project will bring focus to a specific selection of extraordinary material found in the Whitney’s Library and Archival collections. These letters, notes, personalized announcements and invitations represent a view of the thoughts and conversations between Museum staff and the artists they represented. Access to this material will make an important contribution to the history of early-twentieth-century American art and the changing tastes of the viewing public and art market.