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.”

Administrative records of the Curtis Institute of Music

The administrative records are divided into six main individual groups, some of which go back to the school’s founding. These include the records of the director, the dean, the registrar, and the board of trustees. Finding aids for these record groups are continually being posted online.

Artifact collection

The artifact collection comprises a variety of materials that were used or kept at the Curtis Institute of Music, as well as Curtis-related or other materials donated by faculty and alumni. (View the preliminary finding aid).

Audiovisual recordings

This collection contains non-commercial, non-performance audio- or audiovisual recordings relating to the Curtis Institute of Music and its alumni, including oral histories,  publicity materials created by the Curtis Institute of Music and broadcasts, documentaries, and programs featuring the Curtis Institute of Music, its alumni, and staff. 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

The personal papers collection consists of papers, photographs, artifacts, audio-visual materials, and memorabilia kept by or relating to former faculty members, administrators, and Curtis alumni. Finding aids for these materials are continually being posted online. For information about collections for which finding aids are not yet available please contact the Archives.

Photograph collection

The Curtis Archives photograph collection consists of the following series: 1. Archival photographs, c. 1880-c. 2000; 2. Portrait photographs of alumni and faculty, c. 1924-c. 1980; 3. Class photos, 1934-present; 4. Communications department photographs, 1986-2000.  For information about photos in the collection please contact the Archives.  To learn about ordering digital copies and copyright restrictions consult our policies.

Programs, publicity,  and promotional materials

This collection contains Curtis programs, publications, and promotional materials, published since Curtis’s founding. The following programs are digitized and online:  programs 1924-2014Catalogue 1924-2010, Overtones 1929-1940.

Scrapbook and clippings collection 

This collection includes scrapbooks kept by Curtis administrators and others to document various aspects of the school’s history and achievements. Early scrapbooks with layered clippings were dismantled and microfilmed; photocopies of entries about faculty and alumni have been distributed in the Vertical Files Collection. (View the premilimary finding aid to the Scrapbook and clippings collection)

Vertical files collection

The Vertical Filess include press clippings, publicity materials, and other documents concerning Curtis faculty and alumni. and subjects relating to the Curtis Institute of Music. The early clippings include copies from annual scrapbooks that were kept during the first decades after Curtis’s founding (View the preliminary finding aid).

Visual materials collection

The Visual Materials Collection contains illustrations and other non-photographic art work in the archives of the Curtis Institute of Music. (View the finding aid)

What alumni materials does the Archives collect?
The Archives is interested in any materials that document the student experience at Curtis and are not part of Curtis publicity or promotional campaigns. Examples are informal photographs and drawings; video recordings; scrapbooks; journals and diaries; and correspondence with faculty, administrators, fellow students, and family. The Archives also collects any documentation of student activities, including student publications (newsletters, flyers and posters); records of meetings; and materials concerning student events, including scripts for holiday parties. Additional materials of interest are course notes, syllabi, and assignments, as well as memorabilia and small objects related to the school.

What faculty materials does the Archives collect?
The Archives is interested in personal archives from Curtis faculty with a longstanding relationship with Curtis. Materials of particular interest are those that document their lives and achievements, as well as their teaching methods and interaction 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. Acceptance of materials may be subject to the approval of the Archives Advisory Committee due to size, access restrictions, and conservation issues.

Will there be any legal arrangements? What about copyright?
People who donate personal archives and other unpublished historical materials are asked to sign a deed of gift that transfers the ownership and legal rights in the donated materials to the Curtis Institute of Music. The Archives strongly encourages donors to transfer copyright in the materials they created, including photographs. This will make it easier to use materials or quotes in exhibits and Curtis publications, and assist researchers in their scholarship. If donors wish to retain all or part of the intellectual property rights that they own in the collection, 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 are used to answer internal and external queries about Curtis’s history and traditions, and are displayed at school and online. The collections are also open to members of the Curtis community and to the public. Visitors to the Archives include a wide range of users, including biographers, scholars, filmmakers, journalists, and people wanting to learn more about their family history. If the collection includes sensitive materials, it is possible to restrict access to part of a collection for a certain amount of time to protect the privacy of the donor or others.

Can I just provide copies and keep the originals?
The Archives is happy to receive high-resolution scans of photographs, or can return original photos after having them scanned. With respect to other archival materials, we prefer to receive and retain original materials rather than copies to preserve the integrity of the documents for research and display. Should a donor be unable to donate the originals, the Archives will accept high-resolution copies of significant materials.

What will happen to my materials after they are transferred to the archives?
Donated archival materials will be preserved and processed according to archival standards and added to the Personal Papers (MSS) Collection, or other appropriate collections in the Curtis Archives and made available for research or use in exhibits, unless the donor has restricted access for a certain period of time.

Do you provide a financial appraisals for tax purposes?
The Archives does not provide a financial appraisal of your records or collection. If a professional appraisal seems desirable or necessary the archives can assist with locating a professional manuscript appraiser.

Can I contribute to the Archives by sending reminiscences or answering questions?
We always welcome personal reminiscences of your time at Curtis, particularly concerning subjects not well documented in the archives, such as student life. Please contact the archivist to discuss your experiences in written or oral format; or to identify individuals pictured in our photograph collection.

Are you interested in printed music or recordings?
Scores and recordings of Curtis performances and events are kept in the Curtis library. The library welcomes any commercially available recordings from alumni and faculty that are not already in its holdings (check the ROC catalogue). If you would like to discuss the donation of music manuscripts and scores please contact the director of music library information resources.

Reference Inquiries

We encourage researchers to visit the Archives to consult our collections in person. Remote researchers who are not able to come in may direct questions  that require limited research to We will try to answer your questions within two weeks.  For general inquiries please consult our Frequently Asked Questions and our online resources about the history of the Curtis Institute of Music.


The Curtis Archives are open Monday to Friday 9.30 AM to 4.30 PM (Summer hours Monday to Thursday 9.30-4.30 PM). Visits are by appointment only.  The Archives are located in the Rock Resource Center at 1720 Locust Street, Philadelphia. Researchers must bring photo identification and sign a registration form in which they agree to observe the document and image reproduction policy and the rules for the use of the collections in the reading room.

View the rules for the use of the collections in the reading room

View the document and image reproduction policy

Download the registration 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.


Digital copies (flatbed scanner)

Photographs in 300 dpi: $20
Photographs in larger format and other images: $35

The Archives uses the file-sharing program WeTransfer to transfer images that are too large to send by e-mail.


Access to the collections

The collections in the Curtis archives are open for research to all members of the Curtis community and visiting researchers. Use of some materials, however, may be restricted by limitations imposed by law, donor stipulations, or preservation concerns. Restrictions will be published in the finding aids to the processed collections, if available.The archivist reserves the right to keep portions of the archives collection closed to researchers when they contain sensitive information or may violate the privacy of living individuals. In cases when it is not known if an individual is deceased, a restriction period of 80 year after date of creation applies.

Records that are intended for public distribution, such as Curtis publications, are available immediately and without restriction. With respect to administrative records of the Curtis Institute of Music the following restrictions apply:

  • Student records and other records containing private information about students are restricted for 80 years after their date of creation, unless written permission is provided by the student or his/her next-of-kin. For deceased students, a list of basic factual information will be provided.
  • Faculty and staff records, if preserved in the archives, are restricted for 70 years after their date of creation, unless written permission is provided by the respective individual or his/her next-of-kin. For information concerning individuals within the restriction period please consult 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 date of creation.
  • Other administrative records are restricted for 50 years after the date of their creation, unless the transferring office has stipulated a different restriction period. Unprocessed collections are not open for research.


Collection policy

The Curtis Archives documents the history and legacy of the Curtis Institute of Music by collecting materials in all formats that provide evidence of the school’s functions, activities, and decision-making processes, as well as its culture and values. The Archives identifies and preserves administrative records of enduring historical value in coordination with the school’s departments and staff. In addition, the Archives actively seeks papers and recollections from faculty, alumni, and other members of the Curtis community that enhance the documentation and understanding of the school’s functioning, culture, and impact; and that capture the student experience at Curtis.

Donating materials to the archives


Document and image reproduction policy

Researchers may order photocopies or scans of documents and photographs; please refer to the photocopy and digital reproduction fees schedule. Orders will be fulfilled upon receipt of payment by check and a signed registration form in which the researcher agrees to the conditions of the Curtis Institute’s document and image reproduction policy. The use of a digital camera within the Archives is allowed under the conditions stipulated in 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 in writing.

View the photocopy and digital reproduction fees schedule

View the document and image reproduction policy

Download the registration form


History and online publications

The following Curtis publications may be browsed online: the annual Catalogue (1924-1971) (information about Curtis, its faculty, programs, courses, and audition requirements), concert and recital programs (1924-2014), and the newsletter Overtones (1929-1940). Additional anniversary publications include Overtones‘ 50th anniversary issue about the history of the Curtis Institute (1974) and Seventy-Five Years of the Curtis Institute of Music by Diana Burgwyn (1999). For additional historical overviews see Curtis’s history site.


Where can I read about the history of the Curtis Institute of Music?

Histories of the institute can be found in the following publications:

-Seventy-Five Years of the Curtis Institute of Music, 1924-1999: A Narrative Portrait by Diana Burgwyn (Curtis Institute of Music, 1999) (available online)

-Overtones 50th anniversary edition, 1974 (available online)

Additional historical overviews include the Curtis historical timeline, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s The Curtis Factor (2012), Curtis Directors’ Musical Legacy, as well as our online archival exhibits, and our blog Notes from the Archives.

How can I consult finding aids to your collections?

We are in the process of making finding aids to our collections available online. To consult our finding aids, please browse an overview of our collections including our  administrative records and personal papers. For information about finding aids that are not yet available please contact the Archives.

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

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

Student and faculty recital programs through 2014 can be browsed online. In addition, students and faculty may appear in photographs and articles in the school’s newsletter Overtones, published from 1929 to 1940. Lists of students, faculty, and staff through 1974 can be found in Overtones 50th  anniversary edition .

The vertical files collection includes newspaper clippings and miscellous public information about faculty and alumni. For photographs and other information available in the archives, 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 must have left in good standing (view the alumni database). However 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. We do not have any records about such private tuition in the Archives.

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

Student recitals from 1937 to the present and commercial recordings featuring alumni and faculty are held by the Curtis Institute of Music Library and can be searched through the library’s online catalog.  All recordings are private and are available to students, faculty, alumni and approved researchers (contact the Media Librarian).

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

The Curtis administration has not kept applications of students who were rejected; applications of students who were accepted are kept in their student files. For the period 1924-1960 the administration kept annual lists of applicants, arranged by instrument and date, indicating if they were accepted or rejected only. To protect the privacy of living individuals, these records are restricted for 80 years after date of creation (view access policy).