SFMOMA Archives


View of museum construction from the southwest, February 1993; photo: Richard Barnes

The archives collects and preserves documents and other materials related to SFMOMA's rich history as the first West Coast museum devoted to modern and contemporary art. Our founding director, Grace L. McCann Morley (1935–1958), was committed to the modern concept that museums should be publicly oriented places for experiential learning. During her tenure SFMOMA established itself as a cultural leader—a pioneer in the realms of photography, experimental film, and California art that initiated groundbreaking interchanges with Latin America and hosted West Coast premieres for artists such as Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. Remaining true to Morley's vision, SFMOMA today stands as a critically acclaimed institution with an international reach whose work continues to bolster a legacy of innovation, education, and community outreach. By making the museum's historical records available to the public, the archives highlights SFMOMA's role in the evolution of museology as well as its contributions to the study and presentation of modern and contemporary art.

The SFMOMA Archives was established with the help of a generous grant from The Getty Foundation. Awarded in 2006, this funding enabled the museum to fill two full-time, two-year archivist positions and supported the processing of core collections documenting the early history of the museum. The grant was part of the Getty initiative, On the Record: Art in L.A. 1945-1980, designed to document the postwar history of Los Angeles avant-garde art and architecture.


The establishment of the SFMOMA Institutional Archives is made possible through a generous grant from The Getty Foundation.