The Ryerson & Burnham Archives collect artists' and architects' papers that complement and extend the permanent collections of the museum's curatorial departments. The collections contain a wide range of media, including correspondence, published and unpublished writings, scrapbooks, architectural drawings and prints, business papers, photographs, slides, audio recordings, films, video, and ephemera.
The Archives also collect the papers of artists and designers. Of particular note are the archives of such figures as Ivan Albright, Irving Penn, and Richard Ten Eyck, each of whom played a key role in recent exhibitions organized by The Art Institute of Chicago.
Other significant collections include materials gathered by noted researchers such as André Mellerio, friend and biographer of artist Odilon Redon; William B. Fagg, an expert in West African art and architecture; and George Collins, scholar of Catalan art and architecture.