About the Archives

The Curtis Institute of Music Archives documents the history and legacy of the Curtis Institute of Music by identifying, acquiring, preserving, and describing records of permanent historical and administrative value. Serving as Curtis’s institutional memory, the Archives provides reference services and makes its collections available to members of the Curtis community and the public. Additionally, the Archives promotes understanding of Curtis’s rich heritage through in-house and online exhibitions and presentations. In doing so, it supports the school’s historical mission “to hand down the great traditions of the past and teach students to build on this heritage for the future.”

The scope of the Curtis Archives collection policy, in keeping with its mission to document the history and legacy of the Curtis Institute of Music, encompasses all materials that chronicle the school’s functions, activities, culture, and values.

Administrative records of permanent historical value are identified in conjunction with Curtis departments and staff.

Papers and recollections from faculty, alumni, and other members of the Curtis community are also actively sought in an ongoing effort to capture a complete representation of the Curtis experience.

The collections in the Curtis Archives are open to all members of the Curtis community, visiting researchers, and the general public by appointment only, though use of some materials may be restricted by law, donor stipulations, or preservation concerns. Any restrictions are noted in all published finding aids.

General access notes:

  • The Archivist reserves the right to close portions of any collection if it contains sensitive information or violates the privacy of living individuals. In instances in which an individual’s death is uncertain, a restriction period of 80 years from the creation date applies.
  • Student records and others containing private information are restricted for 80 years after their creation date unless written permission is provided by the student or next-of-kin. For deceased students a list of basic factual information will be provided.
  • Faculty and staff records are restricted for 70 years after their creation date unless written permission is provided by the respective individual or next-of-kin. For information on individuals within the restriction period please consult the Director of Public Relations.
  • Minutes of the Board of Trustees, Board of Overseers, and Board of the Mary Louise Curtis Bok Foundation are restricted for 50 years after their creation date.
  • Other administrative records are restricted for 50 years after their creation date unless otherwise stipulated by the transferring department.
  • Unprocessed collections are not open for research.

Administrative records of the Curtis Institute of Music

Includes founder’s papers and records of the director, dean, registrar, and board of trustees. Finding aids for these record groups are posted online upon completion.

Artifact collection

Comprises materials used or kept at the Curtis Institute of Music as well as materials donated by faculty and alumni.

Audiovisual recordings

Contains non-commercial, non-performance audio- or audiovisual recordings relating to the Curtis Institute of Music and its alumni. These materials are for internal use only and are not accessible to the public. For student recitals and commercial recordings featuring alumni and faculty see our FAQ.

Personal papers (MSS) collection

Consists of papers, photographs, audio-visual materials, and memorabilia relating to former Curtis faculty members, administrators, and alumni. Finding aids for these materials are posted upon completion.

Photograph collection

Consists of images covering various aspects of life at Curtis including students, alumni and faculty, graduating classes, and publicity, c. 1880 – present. For more information on the collection, including digital copies and copyright, please contact the Archives.

Programs, publicity,  and promotional materials

Contains Curtis programs, publications, and promotional materials, 1924-present (view the finding aid). The following programs and newsletters are digitized and online:  performance programs 1924-2014Catalogue 1924-2010, Overtones 1929-1940.

Scrapbook collection 

Comprises scrapbooks and related clippings kept by Curtis administration to document various aspects of the school’s history and achievements.

Vertical files collection

Includes press clippings, publicity materials, and other documents relating to Curtis, its faculty, and alumni. (Note: the early clippings include copies from annual scrapbooks that were kept during the first decades after Curtis’s founding).

Visual materials collection

Contains illustrations and other non-photographic art work related to Curtis (view the finding aid)

The Curtis Archives are open Monday to Friday 10.00 AM to 3.00 PM (summer hours Monday to Thursday 10.00 to 3.00 PM). Visits are by appointment only.  The Archives are located in the Rock Resource Center at 1720 Locust Street, Philadelphia. Researchers must bring current photo identification and sign a registration form in which they agree to observe the use and reproduction policy  and rules for using the collections.

We encourage all patrons to visit the Archives to consult our collections in person. For those unable to do so, please direct any questions to the Archivist. We endeavor to answer all inquiries in the order of receipt within 2 weeks.  For general Curtis inquiries please also consult our FAQs and our online resources about the history of the Curtis Institute of Music

Researchers may order photocopies or scans of most materials for a fee (see rates below). Orders are fulfilled upon receipt of a check payment, signed registration form, and a completed use and reproduction policy order form. Use of a digital camera within the Archives is allowed only under the terms of the reproduction policy. Photocopies and digital photographs may be used for personal reference and research only. Permission to publish or share materials in any other way must be requested separately through a completed permission to use form.


Standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ photocopy: $0.35 per sheet
Standard 11″ x 17″ photocopy: $0.70 per sheet
Minimum order for remote users: $15

Remote researchers may order photocopies to be emailed in PDF format, in which case shipping fees will be waived. The maximum number of photocopies per patron is 200 annually.

Photos: Digital Scans

Photographs in 300 dpi (JPEG): $2
Photographs in larger format and other images: $3.50

The Archives uses Dropbox to transfer images that are too large to send by e-mail.


What alumni materials does the Archives collect?
The Archives is interested in documentation of the Curtis student experience exclusive of Curtis publicity or promotional campaigns. Examples include:

  • informal photographs and drawings
  • video recordings
  • scrapbooks
  • journals and diaries
  • Curtis-related personal correspondence
  • student-created materials including publications, meeting records, and events
  • course notes, syllabi, and assignments
  • memorabilia and small objects related to the school

What faculty materials does the Archives collect?
The Archives is interested in personal collections from faculty with an established relationship with Curtis. Of particular interest are materials that document their lives and achievements, teaching methods, and interactions with students.

How do I find out if my materials are of interest to the Archives?
Please contact the Archivist to discuss materials you wish to donate. Note that the acceptance of some materials may not be possible due to size, access restrictions, and/or conservation issues.

Will there be any legal arrangements? What about copyright?
Donors of personal archives and other unpublished historical materials are required to sign a deed of gift transferring the ownership and legal rights of the donated materials to the Curtis Institute of Music. In addition, the Archives strongly encourages donors to transfer copyright in self-created materials as this will enable their use for exhibits, Curtis publications, and research. If, however, donors wish to retain all or a part of the intellectual property rights to self-created materials, a provision will be included in the deed of gift.

Who will see my materials? Can access be restricted to part or all of it due to privacy or confidentiality issues?
The collections in the Curtis Archives, open to the Curtis community, researchers, and the public, are available both on site and online. In addition, a wide range of visitors utilize the Archives including biographers, scholars, filmmakers, journalists, and genealogists. Although access to the collections is generally unrestricted, it is possible to prohibit access to part of a collection for a specified amount of time.

Can I provide copies and keep the originals?
High-resolution scans of photographs are gladly accepted, though the Archives can also scan and return originals. For all other archival materials we prefer to retain the originals. Should that not be possible, high-resolution copies of significant materials are acceptable.

What will happen to my materials after they are transferred to the archives?
Donated archival materials will be preserved and processed according to recognized archival standards. Also, unless restrictions prevent otherwise, the materials will be made available for research and/or use in exhibits.

Is my donation tax deductible?
In certain instances donations may qualify as tax-deductible, allowing donors to claim a gift as a charitable donation. For further information, please consult a tax accountant or attorney. To claim a deduction for non-cash gifts in excess of $500 within a calendar year, a donor must file IRS Form 8283

Can I tell my Curtis story or contribute my Curtis knowledge to the Archives?
Absolutely!  We always welcome personal reminiscences of your time at Curtis. Please contact the Archivist to discuss sharing your information and/or experiences.

Are you interested in printed music or recordings?
Scores and recordings of Curtis performances are kept in the Curtis library which welcomes any commercially available alumni and faculty recordings not already in its holdings (see the ROC catalogue). If you would like to discuss the donation of music manuscripts and scores please contact the Library Director.


How can I consult finding aids to your collections?

We are in the process of making collection finding aids available online. To consult our existing finding aids, please browse an overview of our collections.

What information is available about Curtis alumni, faculty, and staff?

The Curtis Institute of Music maintains all student files dating from its founding in 1924. For access restrictions please consult our policies.

Student and faculty recital programs through 2014 can be browsed online. Additionally, students and faculty may appear in the school’s newsletter Overtones, published from 1929 to 1940. For lists of students, faculty, and staff through 1974 please consult the Overtones 50th anniversary edition.

The vertical files collection contains newspaper clippings and miscellaneous public information about faculty and alumni. For photographs and other available information, please contact the Archives.

Why does my relative not appear in Curtis’s online alumni database?

To be considered alumni, students must attend Curtis for at least one year and left in good standing (view the alumni database) though students attending Curtis for less than one year may still be on file. To inquire about a student file contact the Archives. For access restrictions please consult our policies.

Another way to verify attendance is to browse the school’s student recital programs. If a person does not appear in the programs, and no student file is available, this indicates (s)he was not a Curtis student.

It is possible that someone who is thought to have been a Curtis student studied privately with a Curtis faculty member or a Curtis student. These records are not in the Curtis Archives.mailto:

Do you have historical recordings of alumni and faculty in your collection?

Student recitals (1937-present) and commercial recordings featuring alumni and faculty are held by the Curtis Institute of Music Library and searchable through its online catalog.  All recordings are private, available only to students, faculty, alumni and approved researchers (contact the Media Librarian).

Do you have records of people who auditioned at Curtis but were rejected?

Applications of rejected students are not kept by Curtis administration. Please contact the Archivist with any further questions.