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“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” —John Dewey


The Barnes Foundation Archives documents the legacy of Albert C. Barnes and the institution’s rich history and serves as the repository for institutional records from our founding to the present. The archival collections hold primary documentation related to the development of our world-renowned art collection and education program, and the visionary behind their inception.

Approximately 1,000 linear feet of material is kept on-site at the Barnes, including photographs, phonograph records, letters, ledgers, manuscripts, and blueprints. Our archives team works to preserve these materials and make them available for use.

Archival materials may be viewed in the Honickman Library by appointment only.

Monday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm

To make an appointment, please submit a request. Requests must be submitted at least 48 hours in advance. See the Finding Aids section below for information on our collections and their contents.

For more information, email us or call 215.278.7280.


Dr. Albert C. Barnes, c. 1946. Photograph by Angelo Pinto. Photograph Collection, Barnes Foundation Archives

Digitized Materials

The cornerstone of the archives is the Albert C. Barnes Correspondence, the entirety of which has been digitized.

Spanning almost 50 years (1902–51), the correspondence is vital to the history of art and the histories of museums and collecting, as it contains exchanges with prominent artists, dealers, and critics. The value of this collection extends beyond these disciplines and into the humanities. Dr. Barnes’s correspondence is filled with lively exchanges with leading philosophers and thinkers of the early 20th century—including Alain Locke, John Dewey, and Leo Stein—as they debate the relationships between art, education, and democracy. The archives hold carbon copies of letters sent by Dr. Barnes, giving researchers a rare opportunity to read full conversations between Barnes and his correspondents.

You can read selections now at the Albert C. Barnes Correspondence Spotlights, which collect Dr. Barnes’s exchanges with select historical figures. Our current Spotlights feature Paul Cret, John Dewey, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paul Guillaume, Charles Spurgeon Johnson, and Leo Stein, with more to come.

To request digital files, consult the finding aid and email us. Please include the subject and purpose of your research and a list of the files requested (file name and year, e.g. “Glackens, William James 1912”).

The Albert C. Barnes Correspondence Spotlights are part of the Dear Dr. Barnes: Digitizing, Interpreting, and Disseminating the Albert C. Barnes Correspondence grant, supported by IMLS and other generous funders. Learn more about the work supported by this grant.


Envelope. Leo Stein to Albert C. Barnes, July 26, 1945. Albert C. Barnes Correspondence, Barnes Foundation Archives

Archival Exhibitions

Displayed in the lower level at the Barnes, our archival exhibitions feature letters, photographs, manuscript drafts, and other documents that bring to light different aspects of our history and mission. New exhibitions are presented each fall—on view now.

We also produce online-only archival exhibitions, available at our archival exhibition portal.


Installation view of Education & Empowerment: Scholarship Recipients at the Barnes Foundation, 1927–1949

Finding Aids

A finding aid is an archival term for a document describing a collection’s contents and including an inventory of the materials. A complete list of our finding aids is available below.

The Albert C. Barnes Correspondence has been digitized. To request digital files, consult the finding aid below and email us. Please include the subject and purpose of your research and a list of the files requested (file name and year, e.g. “Glackens, William James 1912”).

Our other collections are accessible on-site by appointment only. Request an appointment. Please review the finding aids to identify the material you would like to view in your request.

Albert C. Barnes Correspondence (digitized)
Albert C. Barnes Personal Papers
Albert C. Barnes Writings
Central File Correspondence
Early Education Records
Laura Leggett Barnes Papers
Violette de Mazia Collection
Audiovisual and Sound Recording Collection
Blueprints and Landscape Architectural Plans
Ephemera Collection
Financial Records
Phonograph Record Collection
Photograph Collection
John Milton Fogg Papers
Esther J. McCrea Papers
Mary Ann Meyers Research Papers to Art, Education & African-American Culture (2004)
D. Walter Steckbeck Papers
Edgar Theodore Wherry Papers
Joseph Lapsley Wilson Papers
Art and Education Manuscripts
The Art in Painting Manuscripts
The Art of Cézanne Manuscripts
The Art of Henri-Matisse Manuscripts
The Art of Renoir Manuscripts
The French Primitives and Their Forms from Their Origin to the End of the Fifteenth Century Manuscripts