Collection ID:

Collection context


The Museum of Modern Art
Preferred citation:

Sound Recordings of Museum-Related Events, [item]. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York, NY.


Scope and Content:

This Record Group contains recordings of events that either occurred at or are related to Museum of Modern Art activities. Types of events include interviews, lectures, speeches, symposia, panel discussions, and discussions between filmmakers and audience.

The first 887 sound recordings in the collection were produced from 1939 through 1988 and transferred to the Museum Archives in June 1990. The description of those recordings replicates an index card file created by previous custodians of the collection.

Recordings transferred to the archives after June 1990 and continuing to the present were cataloged as received. Included in this group are three tape recordings of the 1939 Museum opening, transferred to the Museum Archives in September 1990.

Types of recording media found in the collection include: 4 10" sound tape reels, 673 7" sound tape reels, 178 5" sound tape reels, 20 3" sound tape reels, 1 Cousino Echo-matic II self-threading tape cartridge, and 1 continuous loop tape. More recent media include standard audio cassettes and various digital recording formats.

Examples of program series represented by the recordings includeThe Related Arts of Today, Cineprobe, New Films/New Directors,What's Happening?,Requests from the Archives,Views on Art,Video Viewpoints,Looking at Film, andItalian Filmmakers. Sponsors include the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, New York State Council on the Arts, Jerome Foundation, the Roy and Niuta Titus Fund; and the Junior Council, International Council, Department of Film, Department of Painting and Sculpture, and Department of Education of the Museum.

In 1978 a new program was started by Barbara London, a curator in the Department of Film, concerning artists and their recent media projects. Focusing on experimentation with form and content, the program features both emerging and recognized artists, who discuss their work with the audience. The programs are presented biweekly and explore filmmaking and videomaking, as well as Web-based, installation, and digital art practices. The program was titled Video Viewpoints until 2003 when its name was changed to MediaScope. These recordings have been aranged as a separate group under the heading Video Viewpoints.

Custodial history:

Sound recordings were made for the individual Museum department responsible for the event, namely the Departments of Architecture and Design, Education, Film, Painting and Sculpture, and Public Information. Before the Audio-Visual Archives was established in 1966, the Museum Library stored sound recordings as well as photographs and slides. In 1971, this material became part of the Department of Rights and Reproductions where it remained until 1980 when sound recordings were once again stored in the Library. The first 887 recordings of the collection were transferred from the Library to the Museum Archives in June 1990. Subsequent recordings were transferred to the Museum Archives from various departments, June 1990 to the present.

Processing information:

In 2001, 119 of the most fragile reel-to-reel tapes were preserved through a generous grant from the New York State Education Department and Library. Preservation included the creation of a new 10 inch analog reel-to-reel archival master tape that is a direct copy of the original. From the archival master, two CD copies were created: a use copy and a back-up. On the CD copies, the sound from the original is enhanced. The 119 original tapes are now retired and access to these recordings is through the CD use copy. Subsequent preservation projects have included the creation of a new archival master in the form of a Broadcast Wave File (BWF) at a high resolution of 96 KHz/24 bit. From the archival master, one or more service copies on CD have been created. The digital master files are also stored on DVD and on hard drive. The original tapes are now retired and their preservation is noted in the inventory.


Within the general sound recordings, recordings through 1997 are arranged chronologically. Each recording is identified by an inventory number that corresponds to a descriptive entry. Recording number 58.6 refers to the sixth event recorded in 1958. The descriptive entry includes such information as personality, title, date, place, series, participants, sponsor, exhibition, size of tape, speed of tape, length of tape, related material, summary, and donor. Original order has been maintained, therefore there are instances when tape recordings from a single year were inventoried out of sequence: for example, 72.13 occurred on March 17th, whereas 72.14 occurred on March 16th.

Sound recordings 71.30, 71.36, 71.38, 74.5, 74.7, and 74.12 in Series A are missing although original index cards for them exist. In addition, the descriptive index cards transferred to the Museum Archives in 1990 with the sound recordings indicated that there were "no corresponding tapes" for sound recordings 69.2, 69.32, and 69.37.

Beginning in January 1998, sound recordings are catalogued according to the date of accession by the Museum Archives, not, as was previously done, by date of event; i.e. tape 98.6 -- the sixth recording to enter the Museum Archives collection of sound recordings in the calendar year 1998. Sound recordings are arranged numerically by accession number. The decision to change the catalogue numbering system was made in order to maximize the efficiency of the transfer process.

Within the series devoted to Video Viewpoints, recordings are described in the order they were received. The same numbering system is used to identify recordings with "vv" as a prefix to indicate that they form part of the Video Viewpoints series.

A cassette player, a discman and a personal DVD player required to play these recordings are available at The Museum of Modern Art Archives. Equipment required for listening to the reel-to-reel tapes, 10" sound recordings, the Cousino Echomatic II self-threading tape cartridge, and the continuous tape loop is not available.



The records are open for research and contain few restricted materials.


The Sound Recordings of Museum-Related Events are the physical property of The Museum of Modern Art. Literary rights, including copyright belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Rights to work produced during the normal course of Museum business resides with The Museum of Modern Art. For further information, and to obtain permission to publish or reproduce, contact the Museum Archivist.


Sound Recordings of Museum-Related Events, [item]. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York, NY.

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