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Archival Collections


The Art Institute of Chicago Archives collects, preserves and makes available materials related to the history of the Art Institute of Chicago, the School, as well as materials related to the history of art, architecture and design in the Chicago area.

The Art Institute of Chicago Archives is the institution’s official archival repository, providing a foundation for institutional memory by collecting, organizing, and preserving unique materials of enduring historical value created by and about the museum (AIC) and School (SAIC), as well as art, architecture, and design resources that complement and extend the museum’s curatorial collections. Along with the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries and Academic Engagement and Research, the Archives comprises one of three divisions of the Art Institute’s Research Center.

Composed of three units, the Archives includes the Institutional Archives, the Institutional Photography Archive and the Ryerson and Burnham Art and Architecture Archives.

The Institutional Archives collects and preserves over 13,000 linear feet of records created or received by the AIC/SAIC in the course of its everyday operations, including museum, School and central administrative records, records from affiliated organizations, and personal papers. The Institutional Photography Archive—also an institutional collection—contains approximately 300,000 negatives, slides, and photographic prints as well as several hundred thousand digital files, all of which document the history of the museum and its collections, exhibitions, and events. The Ryerson and Burnham Art and Architecture Archives collects approximately 5,000 linear feet of artists’ and architects’ papers that both illuminate the development of art and architecture in Chicago and the Midwest from the 1870s to the present and complement the museum’s permanent collections. This collection is renowned for the caliber of its holdings related to the First and Second Chicago Schools, the Prairie School, development of the skyscraper, Chicago urban planning, the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and 20th-century local art galleries.

The Research Center’s Franke Reading Room is currently open for onsite, in-person research, but please note that access is available by advance appointment only; walk-in appointments are not possible. Find additional information about our new access policies and procedures here.

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Contact the Art Institute of Chicago Archives

For information regarding our archival collections, please contact us via our Contact and Application for Access form.


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