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The Museum of Modern Art names Senior Museum Archivist Michelle Elligott Chief of Archives
Michelle Elligott, Chief of Archives, The Museum of Modern Art, NY. Photo by Sari Goodfriend.

NEW YORK, NY.- Glenn D. Lowry, Director of The Museum of Modern Art, announces that Senior Museum Archivist Michelle Elligott has been named Chief of Archives, effective July 1. In this newly established position, Ms. Elligott will lead the institution’s program of acquiring, preserving, and making accessible archival and primary source collections related to 20th- and 21st-century art. Her chief responsibilities include enhancing the use of archives for research and in Museum exhibitions, leading an initiative for the creation of an electronic archive, and promoting online access to digitized items from the archives. Ms. Elligott joined MoMA as a Mellon Fellow in 1995 and subsequently became Assistant Archivist in 1996; Interim Manager, Museum Archives/Associate Archivist in 1998; and Rona Roob Senior Museum Archivist in 1999. As Chief of Archives, she will report to Peter Reed, Senior Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs.

Formally established in 1989 under the leadership of Rona Roob, the MoMA Archives contain more than six million items (over 6,000 linear feet) of extensive historical documentation concerning the Museum’s art historical and cultural role in the 20th and 21st centuries, along with primary source material concerning many aspects of modern and contemporary art, including private archives and papers of artists, galleries, dealers, art historians, critics, and others. The holdings also include an extensive Photographic Archive and nearly 100 oral histories created by the Archives Oral History Program.

Chief of Library and Museum Archives Milan Hughston will assume the new position of Chief of Library. The MoMA Library contains more than 345,000 books and periodicals, as well as special collections of rare and unique materials devoted to the study of modern and contemporary art. A particular strength of the collection is its holdings documenting modern and contemporary Latin American art.

Mr. Lowry said, “This appointment recognizes the remarkable growth in the scope and importance of the MoMA Archives, the result of an effective program under the leadership of Michelle Elligott and Milan Hughston over the last 15 years. By raising the profile of the Archives and putting the Archives and Library on an equal footing, we recognize the unique qualities of the respective collections and the magnitude of the responsibilities of the Chief of Archives and Chief of Library.”

Ms. Elligott said, “It has been an honor to lead MoMA’s effort to preserve and make available the Museum’s outstanding archival resources, which are increasingly in demand by artists and researchers around the world, as archives serve as the basis for serious scholarship and as inspiration to artists’ creative practice, and in many instances are items of unique artistic value. Moreover, we face new challenges, including creating an archive for electronic records, further collaborating on Museum exhibitions, producing a critical body of digital assets for online access, and processing the ever growing collection.”

Milan Hughston said, “Since joining the Museum in 1999, my overarching goal has been to oversee the centralization and growth of the Archives in parallel to the Library’s collection, to ensure that these unique research resources are available to staff and the many researchers who come to MoMA from around the world. Michelle has been an outstanding partner in this endeavor, and I am pleased to acknowledge her enhanced leadership role of the archival program going forward. We share a deep commitment that MoMA’s Library and Archives continue to be an ideal paradigm for the study of modern and contemporary art in the 21st century.”

Under the leadership of Ms. Elligott and Mr. Hughston, the Archives effected a dramatic consolidation and processing of institutional records from across the Museum, bringing to the fore curatorial and registrar exhibition records dating back to 1929; over 25,000 photographs of exhibition installations; 50 years of records documenting the activities of MoMA’s International Council and International Program; and papers of influential former staff members such as Victor D’Amico, René d’Harnoncourt, and Edward Steichen.

In addition, they oversaw the establishment of the MoMA PS1 Archives, which documents the history of that seminal contemporary art institution. Major archival collections that relate closely to the Museum’s collection have been acquired and opened for research, including the Avalanche Magazine Archives, Richard Bellamy Papers, Scott Burton Papers, Herman and Nicole Daled Papers, Paul Rosenberg Archives, Seth Siegelaub Papers, Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Archives, and Calvin Tomkins Papers, among others.

At MoMA, Ms. Elligott co-edited the institution’s first self-published history, Art in Our Time: A Chronicle of The Museum of Modern Art (2004); co-curated the MoMA exhibition 1969 at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center (now MoMA PS1); and was part of the curatorial team for Abstract Expressionist New York: The Big Picture in 2010. She routinely organizes archival exhibitions, including those devoted to James Lee Byars, Dada, and the history of dance and theater at MoMA. With her “Modern Artifacts” column, she is a regular contributor to the art magazine Esopus. She has published widely, including the articles “Modern Women: A Brief History” and “Dada: A Chronology,” for MoMA; and “Schémas des origins et de l’évolution de l’art modern” for the Centre Pompidou. She has taught seminars on art archives in Havana, Caracas, and Buenos Aires, and has lectured extensively, including at the 2013 Venice Biennale, the Centre Pompidou, and the Frick Collection. In 2005, she was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in residence at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece. This fall, she will be Adjunct Assistant Professor of Museum Studies at New York University.

Prior to arriving at MoMA, Ms. Elligott was with the C. Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1993 to 1995. She holds degrees in art history from Smith College and Hunter College, City University of New York, with additional coursework at the Université de Paris IV, Sorbonne, and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece.

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