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The American Folk Art Museum Library and Archives

The American Folk Art Museum’s 1961 charter mandated the creation of a museum, library, and educational center and has since provided dedicated exhibition space for art by the self-taught and has also been a center for scholarship and education.

The museum’s library and archives are noncirculating research collections providing comprehensive coverage in areas of primary interest to the museum. The library and archives are currently undergoing a major cataloging project and will be available to researchers by appointment at the forthcoming Library and Archives Study Center, which will open in 2015.

The American Folk Art Museum Library contains more than 10,000 volumes, including monographs and exhibition and auction catalogs, as well as substantial runs of nearly two hundred periodicals. It is a singular repository of scholarship in the field, unique in that its holdings include resources on both traditional folk art and art by the self-taught from the twentieth century to the present together under one roof.

The American Folk Art Museum Archives holds institutional records and distinctive collections related to the founding and development of the field, its artists, and its networks, and has been shaped by artists, collectors, curators, and scholars. Archive materials include audio, video, photographs, ephemera, clippings, manuscripts, and correspondence, as well as expansive artist and subject files.

Among these valuable documents are archives related to Henry Darger (1892–1973), widely acknowledged as one of the most prominent and iconic self-taught artists of the twentieth century. The museum holds four original manuscripts comprising more than 30,000 pages of text, approximately 3,000 items of ephemera, and source material, as well as two dozen double-sized paintings in the museum’s collection—all which make up the largest repository of works by Darger. The Darger archives are temporarily inaccessible while the museum undergoes a major cataloging project to make this precious material accessible for future research.

 

Image: UNTITLED (Idyllic Landscape with Children) (detail) (double-sided), Henry Darger (1892–1973), Chicago, mid-twentieth century, watercolor, pencil, carbon tracing, and collage on pieced paper, 24 x 106 1/2″, museum purchase with funds generously provided by John and Margaret Robson, 2004.1.3. © Kiyoko Lerner; photo by James Prinz.