What is an archive?

Typically we use the term archive(s) to talk about materials created or accrued by a person, organization, or family that contain information about the functions and responsibilities of those parties. The materials are lasting, valuable, and often have unique evidence of the parties' activities.

We also use the term archive(s) to talk about the department or office within an organization that is responsible for stewarding these materials; as well as the physical (or digital) space where they are housed.

How are archives organized?

Archives and archival collections are usually organized into hierarchies to help users find and retrieve items of interest. These levels are: archive/collection, sub-group, series, sub-series, box, folder, and item.

archiveDepartment of Film and Video Archive

subgroupDepartment of Film and Video records

seriesArtist files

subseriesFiles for artists with accessioned artworks

fileArtist file for James Broughton containing correspondence with Sally Dixon

itemLetter from James Broughton to Sally Dixon, 8/29/1972

Cataloguing every item in an archive is not practical (a single archive can contain tens of thousands of items, and each repository can have dozens of archives). This hierarchy helps us group similar items together so they are easier to find.

What do we have in our Archives?

Carnegie Institute, our parent body, has been around since 1895 and has collected mountains of records over the years. Our Archives contain roughly 2,500 linear feet of letters, sketches, posters, scrapbooks, architectural drawings, clippings, manuscripts, catalogues, books, photographs, videotapes, films, audio recordings, and boundless other ephemera that chronicle our organization’s past and our role in our community. This includes dozens of boxes of records from our Carnegie International exhibitions which we have been hosting semi-annually here in Pittsburgh since 1896; and ephemera from the museum's Department of Film and Video (1970–2003), which was a dynamic part of the film community in Pittsburgh and nationally for more than 30 years. In the 1970s, CMOA donated some of its earliest materials (1895–1940) to the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art and we welcome you to view those items through their digital collections website.


If you would like to learn more about our Archives or schedule an appointment to visit in person, please contact us at