The Barnes Foundation archives preserve historical records documenting the activities of the Foundation, its collections, and its community from before its establishment to the present day. The archives contain the personal and professional papers of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, administrative and financial records, drafts of essays and writings, student records, photographs, architectural blueprints and drawings, Arboretum records, and early publications. Of particular interest to researchers is Dr. Barnes’s correspondence, which documents the development of his medicine Argyrol, the acquisition of his world-renowned art collection, and the growth of his educational theories. These letters illustrate the relationships that Dr. Barnes maintained with physicians, artists, art dealers, scholars, collectors, publishers, politicians, and museum directors.
The Foundation's special collections include photographs, rare books, auction catalogues, exhibition catalogues, and manuscript collections. The photograph collection contains some of the earliest examples of the Foundation's art collection and wall ensembles caught on film, as well as images of Dr. and Mrs. Barnes, the Arboretum, and Foundation buildings including Ker-Feal. The rare book collection is especially strong in early 20th–century art and horticulture imprints, as well as pamphlets and ephemera, fine and decorative art periodicals, auction catalogues, and exhibition catalogues from the same period. Invitations to gallery openings, prospectuses, and small press catalogues provide unique evidence of 20th–century art production and movement. Manuscript collections include personal papers and other donated collections relating to the history of the Foundation.
The archives and special collections are open by appointment only.