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Exhibition History in the Archives: Overview

A guide to researching historic exhibitions (and objects exhibited) in archival records

Exhibition History

The Museum Archives houses historic exhibition, loan, and object shipping / entry documentation. The earliest exhibition files date to 1912. 

Finding aids for archival holdings can be consulted in ArchivesSpace

Exhibition Files

Exhibition files are housed in several archival record groups, including the following:

Director's Office Records (1912-2012)

Correspondence which documents the organization and planning of exhibitions. Includes correspondence, check lists, schedules, installation information, details regarding loans, background information concerning objects and artists, etc.

I. General Exhibition, 1912-1988

II. Selected Paintings by American Artists Exhibitions, 1912-1946

III. Special Exhibitions held at the Museum, 1915-2012

IV. Special Exhibitions not shown at the Museum, 1933-1986

V. Prospective Exhibitions, not held, 1930-1992

Registrar's Office Records (1931-Present)

The bulk of this material falls into the first series of special exhibitions, an active series. The series on Missouri exhibition and Local Artists' Groups are both inactive. The special exhibition series documents the role of the Registrar's office in the organization of temporary exhibitions and includes such information as shipping arrangements, loan forms, condition reports, conservation treatment, insurance coverage, etc. The Missouri exhibition series contains information on the 4th through the 20th Annual Missouri exhibitions and includes a card file of participating artists. The Local Artists' Groups series documents the exhibition scheduling of 25 local organizations maintaining an affiliation with the museum.

First two series arranged chronologically; third series arranged alphabetically by artists' group, then chronologically under each heading.

I. Special Exhibitions, 1931-Present

II. Missouri Exhibitions, 1944-1965

III. Local Artists' Groups, 1939-1964

Curatorial Office Records (1965-2017)

Records cover all aspects of planning for exhibitions held at the museum. Includes information on lenders, installation plans, other venues, programs, previews, indemnification, budget, sponsorship, labels and wall text, shipping, publicity, research, checklists, catalogue, etc.

Planning files for exhibitions held at the St. Louis Art Museum. Organized chronologically by date of exhibition. Under heading of exhibition, correspondence is chronologically arranged; other material arranged by subject.

I. Exhibition Files, 1965-2017

II. Declined or Canceled Exhibitions, 1967-2005

III. Currents Series, 1978-2024

Building Department Records (1979-2000)

I. Exhibition Files, 1979-2000

Exhibitions & Collections Records (1993-2024)

I. Exhibition Files, 1993-2024

II. Exhibition Proposals, 2000-2014

Exhibition Photographs & Publications

Photographs of past exhibitions and installations can be found in the following locations:

Archival Slide Collection

Historic Photographs Collection, Exhibitions, 1920-2007


Exhibited Object Information

Information on Museum objects exhibited at other institutions and non-Museum object exhibited at the Museum can be found in Loan Files and Shipping & Entry Receipts. Restricted content may not be available for external use. Please consult with the Museum Archivist regarding access.

Loan Files (1965-2022)

Records documenting the loan of works of art by this museum to other institutions. Includes: correspondence, loan agreements, shipping and insurance information, tour venues. Each file includes artist and accession number of objects on loan. There are a few files of individual loans received by this museum on exchange. Limited records are available from 1921 to 1964.

Files are arranged alphabetically by requesting institution within each year, beginning in 1965. The later loan files are arranged by loan number, starting around 2007-2009.

Shipping & Entry Receipts (1889-Present)

Incoming and outgoing receipts of artwork shipments to the Saint Louis Art Museum (formerly City Art Museum and Saint Louis Museum of Fine Arts). The first series, which contains information on both incoming and outgoing shipments, consists of lists, receipts, instructions, correspondence and logs. The second series consists of forms documenting outgoing objects. The third series consists of forms documenting incoming objects. Arrangement is by shipping or entry number.
I. Shipping and entry records combined, 1889-1965.
II. Shipping forms, 1939-Present.
III. Entry forms, 1932-Present.
Note: Entry Form Numbering restarts on July 28, 1966, when Richard Cleveland took over as the new Registrar.

Contact the Museum Archivist

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Jenna Stout
She / Her
Archives Office
Richardson Memorial Library
South Building, 3rd Floor
(314) 655-5452