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.


Curtis Archives Photograph Collection

The Curtis Archives photograph collection dates back to the late 1880s and features faculty, alumni, recitals, and events. For information about digital copies and possible copyright restrictions, consult our policies.


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 content lists of individual collections, please contact the archivist.


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.


Faculty and Alumni Vertical Files

The Archives holds a collection of vertical files, which include press clippings, publicity materials, and other documents concerning Curtis faculty and alumni. The early clippings include copies from annual scrapbooks that were kept during the first decades after Curtis’s founding.



The Curtis Archives actively seeks materials that document the life of the Curtis community, including student activities, alumni organizations, and other Curtis-related groups. Examples include, but are not limited to: minutes, publicity materials, scrapbooks, photographs, audio-visual materials, and artifacts. In addition, the Archives may acquire the papers of Curtis officers, alumni, faculty, and benefactors to supplement its personal papers (MSS) collection at the discretion of the archivist and the archives advisory committee.

For music manuscripts and scores please contact Michelle Oswell, director of music library information resources.




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 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.


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


Rules for the use of the reading room

Researchers visiting the Curtis Archives 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

Download the registration form



History and online publications

Three Curtis publications are digitized through 1971 and may be browsed online: the annual Catalogue (information about Curtis, its faculty, programs, courses, and audition requirements), programs of student and faculty recitals, and the newsletter Overtones. The digitization was made possible by a grant from the Lyrasis and the Sloane Foundation in 2009. The collection includes a history of Curtis Institute on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1974. For additional historical overviews see Curtis’s history site.


Finding Aids

Personal Papers (MSS) Collection

Administrative Records



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)

-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.

A guide to publications concerning Curtis alumni and faculty will be available shortly.

How can I consult finding aids to your collections?

Presently, information about our collections is only available in internal databases. A brief overview of our collections can be found here. We are in the process of making finding aids to our collections available online; in the meantime brief overviews of the administrative records and personal papers in our collections are available. For more information please contact the archivist.

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 1971 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 Curtis’s 75th anniversary edition .

The vertical files collection includes newspaper clippings and miscellaneous public information about faculty and alumni. For photographs and other information available in the archives, please contact the archivist.

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 archivist. 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 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).