Grace M. Mayer papers, 1891-1960 (bulk 1932-1958)

Extent: 48 boxes (21 linear feet)
The Grace Mayer Files include day-to-day external incoming and outgoing correspondence related to researching, acquiring, preserving, exhibiting, and publicizing images of New York while she served as Curator of the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photography at the Museum of the City of New York; her files documenting exhibitions she organized at the Museum and as loans to other institutions; and documentation of the acquisition, appraisal, preservation, exhibition, research, and publicity of the Harry T. Peters and Gerald LeVino collections of Currier & Ives images at the Museum.

Scope and Content
The Grace Mayer Files include day-to-day external incoming and outgoing (in the form of carbon copies) correspondence related to her curatorial work, and a few internal memos; her files documenting exhibitions she was responsible for mounting at the Museum, or collaborated on as loans to other institutions; and documentation of the acquisition, appraisal, preservation, exhibition, research, and publicity of the Harry T. Peters and Gerald LeVino collections of Currier & Ives images. The latter include materials about the last living Currier & Ives artist, Louis Maurer.

Series I (Correspondence) and II (Exhibits) complement each other in various ways. The Correspondence files include letters to and from donors and artists, often documenting their first contact with Mayer; some artists are also represented in the Exhibit files relevant to their work. Some exhibits are mentioned only in the Correspondence files, which serve as the collection’s sole evidence of them. The Correspondence provides an overview of the variety of collectors, artists, dealers, and potential lenders and donors with whom Mayer was in contact; the Exhibit files document the particular groups or individuals associated with specific topics or collections that she exhibited.

Although the collection includes Mayer’s correspondence related to the exhibit of Jacob Riis’s images (through Alexander Alland’s contemporary prints in “The Battle with the Slum” [1947]), it does not document the Museum’s acquisition of the original glass negatives from his son, Roger Williams Riis. The collection includes her extensive correspondence with Percy Byron, but no editorial material related to her 1958 publication “Once Upon a City.” A note on her file mentions that she removed “500 clippings” about the book to her home office. The collection also does not include any drafts or other material related to her other written output:  her yearly, often droll and self-deprecating, contributions to the Museum’s Annual Report and/or Bulletin.

I. Correspondence
II. Exhibits (with an Appendix: Chronology of Exhibits)
III. Currier & Ives (organized into three subseries)
III.A. Collections
III.B. Exhibits.
III.C. Background and publicity

Click here to view the entire finding aid for the Grace Mayer papers

Related Collections
Berenice Abbott’s Changing New York papers

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