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Collection Overview

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 The collections contain a wide range of media, including correspondence, published and unpublished writings, scrapbooks, architectural drawings and prints, business papers, photographs, slides, audio recordings, films, video, and ephemera.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' collections are notably strong in late 19th- and 20th-century American architecture, with particular depth in Midwest architecture. Architects such as Edward Bennett, Daniel Burnham, Bruce Goff, Bertrand Goldberg, Ludwig Hilberseimer, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright are represented in a broad range of papers. As well, the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago is documented through photographs by C.D. Arnold and through a small collection of ephemera. The Century of Progress International Exposition of 1933-1934 in Chicago and the World's Fair of 1939 in New York are also each represented in an individual archive. The Historic Architecture and Landscape Image Collection (HALIC), a large collection of mounted photographic prints and lantern slides, provides valuable historic records of American architecture, landscape design, and urban planning.

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.

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Digital Publications
Archives Access Policies

Digital Collections

The Ryerson & Burnham Digital Collections consists of various searchable image and text collections. These collections include only limited selections from our archive, and represent a relatively small portion of our total holdings; the majority of our collections are not digitized (a list of digitized collections is available here). Our digital collections include:

1. Electronic surrogates of selected original archival materials from Ryerson & Burnham archival collections. Such materials may include photographs, slides, architectural drawings and prints, correspondence, printed papers and other materials.

Historic Architecture and Landscape Image Collection
Magic of America
Archival Image & Media Collection

2. Ryerson & Burnham archival finding aids, which are text resources that describe the holdings of our archival collections along with related biographical, administrative and access information.

Finding Aids Collection

3. Digital editions of other architectural image and text resources from the collections of the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries.

Chicago Architectural Sketch Club
Chicago Architects Oral History Project

For example, a keyword search across all collections for "Daniel Burnham" will retrieve portraits of Burnham, archival images of buildings designed by the architect, some correspondence to Burnham, a list of the years in which Burnham participated in the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club competitions, mentions of Burnham from several oral histories, as well as descriptions of Burnham-related archival holdings from all collections.

Given the breadth of collections in this digital archive, you may wish to limit your searches to either image or text collections.

See Also:

Digital Publications
Archives Access Policies


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Contact the Ryerson & Burnham Archives

For image rights and reproductions of works of art from the museum's curatorial collections, you MUST review the information on this page and contact Art Resource accordingly. The Ryerson and Burnham Archives does not manage such requests and cannot provide information or guidance regarding any such inquiries.

For information regarding any of the following topics, please contact the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries' Reference Desk at

  • Works of art from the museum's curatorial collections
    (view Research Guide)
  • Information on how to identify or find the value of a work of art
    (view Research Guide)
  • General art and design research
    (view Research Guide)
  • History of the AIC or SAIC
  • AIC exhibitions
  • AIC or SAIC staff, students or faculty

For information regarding the art, architecture and design archival collections we manage (listed here), or for general questions on architecture in Chicago and the midwest, please contact us using the following information: