More than four years ago, at the end of 2008, MoMA and P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center officially completed their 10-year affiliation process. At that time, The Museum of Modern Art Archives received custody of the organizational records, curatorial documents, exhibition paraphernalia, and other materials of historical importance saved by the institution over four decades of groundbreaking programming. And MoMA PS1 saved a lot.
Original staff of the Institute for Art and Urban Resources, (now MoMA PS1.) From left: Linda Blumberg, Vice President; Brendan Gill, Chairman of the Board of Directors; Alanna Heiss, Founder and Executive Director; Steven Reichard, Vice President; and an unidentified person, c. 1975.Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni. MoMA PS1 Archives, I.A.167
At the start the Museum Archives didn’t know the full scope of the records, but we soon found out—nearly 500 boxes stored in all parts of the rehabilitated school building, providing evidence of the dizzying pace of activity that has characterized PS1 from its founding. With the support of the Leon Levy Foundation I was given the task of identifying and sorting through the material and in December 2008 I dug in. (I was joined two years later by project assistant Alana Miller.) As of January 2013, after years of work organizing and cataloguing the material, the historical records of MoMA PS1—it’s archives—are now open to the public and freely accessible to artists, scholars, students, and anyone interested in this legendary art space.
The documentation in the Archives begins in 1971—when Alanna Heiss organized The Brooklyn Bridge Event, a three-day outdoor exhibition and festival now considered PS1′s inaugural exhibition—and continues through 2006. Between those years PS1 staged nearly 1000 exhibitions and events, involving thousands of artists, in multiple locations around the city. The records left behind by these activities include tens of thousands of installation and artwork photographs, artist and curatorial correspondence, news clippings and press releases, exhibition proposals and plans, contracts and studio leases, meeting minutes, memos, and postcards, posters, and brochures.
Postcard showing the Clocktower, Gallery, on the 13th floor of 108 Leonard Street at Broadway, in lower Manhattan, c. 1978. PS1 used the Clocktower for exhibitions and studio space from 1973 through 2008. Photograph by Thomas Struth. MoMA PS1 Archives, II.B.3
These materials, half a million of pieces of documentation, are contained in more than 11,000 folders and are detailed in three finding aids, or guides, to the collection (see here, here, and here.) These guides are just part of the MoMA PS1 Archives pages on MoMA.org. We also created an exhibition history list displaying all the exhibitions and events from 1971 through 2012. If you want to consult the archival materials on an event or activity, the specific folders are listed beneath each entry. The exhibition pages are linked to an artists index listing over 5600 individuals and groups, so you can trace an artist’s involvement at PS1 over the decades. We’ve also included a list of participants in PS1′s long-running National and International Studio Program, a complete bibliography, and a chronology of significant moments in PS1′s history. Finally, an exhibition page highlights documents of MoMA PS1′s first decade; it’s a great introduction to the institution’s founding and growth.
Now in its fifth decade, MoMA PS1 is as lively as ever, and with the MoMA PS1 Archives open to the public, with critical historical information available online, the public can investigate and explore PS1′s past even as the institution continues exploring the future of art and visual culture. Come see it in the archives!
Jonathan Lill, Project Archivist, The Museum of Modern Art
This post originally appeared on Inside/Out, the MoMA and PS1 blog.