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Reading Room Access and Research Services for AIC Staff: Archives

Information on Using the Libraries and Archives for Art Institute of Chicago Staff

Welcome to the Archives

Welcome to the Art Institute of Chicago Archives

All of the museum's archives, including the institutional archives, imaging archives, Ryerson and Burnham Art and Architecture Archives, and digital preservation efforts, are now unified under the Art Institute of Chicago Archives banner, situated within the museum's Research Center.

Please contact Archives staff if you have any questions. Our contact information is at the bottom of this page.

Access and Services

Remote services

Remote reference services and photoduplication are available for researchers who do not require onsite, in-person access to the collections. We recommend that you consult our resources and discovery tools (sidebar, right) in order to make your questions as precise as possible.


How to access the archives

Research appointments to view materials from the Institutional Archives and the Ryerson and Burnham Art and Architecture Archives are available to museum staff on Tuesdays and Wednesdays:

Tuesday/Wednesday (when the museum is closed to the public): 
1:00 until 5:00

If space is available, museum staff may also make appointments during our public research hours on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays:

Monday/Thursday/Friday (when the museum is open to the public):
1:30 until 5:00

To request an Archives research appointment, please complete this form.

We strongly recommend that all researchers review the Archives access guidelines and procedures for staff before their appointment.

For staff working remotely, Archives staff will continue to provide reference services via email to the best of our abilities. Please contact us at for all Archives-related questions.


How to access the Imaging Archive

In-person research appointments for access to the Imaging Archive are not currently available. Please see the 'Existing Images' section of Imaging's intranet site on how to access existing digitized and born digital images from the Imaging archive. If you would like access to an image that you don't currently see in our systems (CITI, NetX, public website) or if you have a general reference request relating to the Imaging archives, please submit the appropriate Jira ticket:

Limited reference services will be provided for physical archive materials that have not yet been digitized, on a two days per month basis, based on capacity. 

Please review the information available on the Imaging department’s intranet site for more information about how to place requests and turnaround times for work that can be accommodated. Please also see this guide on how to access existing digitized and born digital images from the Imaging archive.


Public hours

The reading room is open for public researchers on an appointment basis, though it remains inaccessible for events and group visits. Information on access to the reading room for public researchers is available here.


Search the Ryerson and Burnham Art and Architecture Archives

Input a keyword into the search box and then click Search to search through the archival collections.

Unfortunately, resources in the Institutional Archives, including the Imaging Archive, are not yet searchable here; see below for a list or related resources or visit this page for more information.


AIC Archives Resources

AIC Archives Resources

Institutional Archives:


A site designed to provide broad, top-level guidance for AIC staff on how to manage their digital files. It provides information to help guide staff decision-making about what to save, what to keep within a department, and what to transfer to the AIC Institutional Archives for long-term preservation.

  • Imaging Archives

The earliest images date to around 1900, and formats in the collection include negatives, transparencies, and prints. The Imaging department fully converted to digital capture in 2003. With few exceptions, all the photographic materials in the archive were created by AIC staff or contract photographers hired by AIC.

Search exhibitions by keyword or browse by date. Some records include photographs or digitized exhibition catalogs.

To obtain the full text of any news releases in this index, please contact the Archives at

Find lists of museum records, school records, affiliated organization records, and personal papers held by the Institutional Archives.

Ryerson and Burnham Art and Architecture Archives:

Catalog of electronic surrogates of selected original archival materials from the Art and Architecture collections. Materials may include photographs, slides, architectural drawings and prints, correspondence, and printed papers.

  • Finding Aids

A finding aid is a document, like an inventory, describing a set of archival records. Finding aids typically provide background information on the organization, person, or family who created the materials in the collection, an organizational overview of the collection and its arrangement, and a detailed listing.

Explore over 200 oral histories of Chicago-based artists, architects, and designers.

Digital collection catalogs available freely online. Catalogs offer detailed art historical context, provenance history, and scientific analysis of artworks in the Art Institute of Chicago's collections.

Research Appointments

How to request an Archives Research Appointment

To request an Archives research appointment, please complete this form.


What Happens Next?

The Archives Appointment Request Form serves as an information gathering tool and will be followed up by a direct email from Archives staff within 2 business days of receipt. Our follow-up email will:

  • Confirm the availability of your requested materials (if applicable)
  • Request further information to clarify your request (if applicable)
  • Provide a link to our online self-service appointment scheduling software

Our self-service appointment scheduling software will provide you with a confirmation of your appointment date and time. Unless otherwise specified, all archival research appointments will be held in the Research Center's Franke Reading Room. 

Come to the reading room on the date and time of your requested appointment. The doors from the first floor opposite the Grand Staircase will remain closed outside of public reading room hours on Thursdays and Fridays, and we ask that you please use the spiral staircase or the elevator from the ground floor in order to access the space. Additional information on accessing the reading room may be found below.

Please check in with an Archives staff member at the Reference Desk upon your arrival. 

Coats, large bags, pens, and food and drink are not permitted in the reading room, and these items will need to be stored in your office prior to your visit to the reading room. We ask that you please wash your hands prior to handling library materials. Hand sanitizer is also available in the reading room for your use.

Library or archives staff will be available to assist with your questions.


Where you can use materials

All archival materials are considered non-circulating and may not travel outside of the Research Center. Unless otherwise specified, all archival research appointments will be held in the Research Center's Franke Reading Room. You can also request specific portions of archival materials as scans.


How to access the reading room

The doors from the first floor opposite the Grand Staircase will remain closed outside of public reading room hours on Thursdays and Fridays. To visit the reading room during staff reading room hours you can use either the spiral staircase or the library elevator. The easiest way to access the elevator and stairs is to go down the grand staircase to gallery 10 on the ground floor. Use your prox card to open the door between the Thorne Rooms and the paperweight gallery, and the library elevator will be on your right side. To take the spiral staircase instead, continue straight past the elevator and take the first right.

The elevator and stairs can also be reached from the ground level of Ferguson by following the hallway past the volunteer office and the freight elevator until you can turn right. Go past the Book Conservation lab and Stack B, and follow the signs to the elevator or the staircase.


How long it takes to access materials

All requested materials will be available at the date and time of your confirmed appointment, unless otherwise noted.

Access retrieval times will depend on the status of the materials requested (e.g., onsite, offsite, restricted, uncataloged, etc.) and is always subject to Archives staff availability. Onsite materials, including all cataloged materials in the Ryerson and Burnham Art and Architecture Archive and many core components of the Institutional Archives, are typically available within two (2) business days. However, offsite or restricted materials may not be available for up to four (4) business days.

Availability of materials will be confirmed following the submission of your Appointment Request Form.

Because research is a process of discovery, the Research Center's paging schedule includes one opportunity during each appointment session for researchers to request additional materials. We encourage you to review our discovery tools and to make most of your requests in advance of your appointment.


Access to scanning equipment

Unfortunately, due to the unique and often fragile nature of archival materials, the digital scanner and microform reader available in the reading room are NOT available for use with most archival collections. However, the following photoduplication options are available:

  • Staff may use their cell phones to take study images during their research appointment.
  • Staff may request higher-resolution imaging by completing this form.
  • Some materials from the Institutional Archives may be approved for self-service scanning pending the approval of Archives staff on duty.


Other Resources

Other Resources

Online catalogs and databases maintained by the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries:

Find library information:

Contact Us

Art Institute of Chicago Archives

(312) 857-7676