In 2005, the Leon Levy Foundation Archives Program was created, born of Shelby White and Leon Levy’s deep-rooted interest in preserving history to inform, strengthen and inspire future generations.  The program has granted over $30 million to over 50 arts, humanities and conservation organizations to help them catalogue, preserve, digitize and build archives and digital archives, providing historians, scholars, artists, writers, students, and the general public critical access to information.  Archives hold countless treasures in their collections and institutional records including documents, letters, photos, correspondence, printed and oral accounts, music, video, digital media, ephemera, memorabilia, each capturing and telling a story in a particular time, place and circumstance.  The Foundation fosters and encourages the NYC archives community and its growth.  Among the organizations that have received support are:


American Museum of Natural History

As the Museum celebrates its 150th anniversary, their Research Library is working to make the Museum’s vast collection of archival treasures more accessible to the public and researchers through the new Shelby White and Leon Levy Archive Initiative. The three-year project will help expand access to the central archive documenting the Museum’s first 100 years, to create a comprehensive digital asset management system for digitized papers, images, videos, and other digital materials, and to reorganize thousands of items in the Memorabilia Collection.

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Brooklyn Academy of Music

With the support of archives grants from the Leon Levy Foundation beginning in 2008, Brooklyn Academy of Music organized and catalogued more than 70,000 historical items and with them created the Leon Levy BAM Digital Archive, a dynamic, online database. The contents—programs, videos, institutional correspondence with artists, photographs and countless other memorabilia—chronicle BAM’s illustrious history, stretching more than 150 years, of presenting adventurous artists and cutting edge programming.

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Burle Marx Institute

Roberto Burle Marx was one of the most preeminent modernist landscape architects of the 20th century. Known as the “real creator of the modern garden”, Burle Marx conceived a new language for contemporary landscape design and is recognized worldwide. Burle Marx Institute was started so his legacy, vision and works could be preserved and made accessible on a global scale, keeping the essence and influence of his legacy alive.

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Center for Brooklyn History

The Center for Brooklyn History has been awarded a three-year grant to process and make accessible all institutional records of the Brooklyn Historical Society, which was founded in 1863 and merged with Brooklyn Public Library in October 2020. The Shelby White & Leon Levy Institutional Archives at the Center for Brooklyn History will contain records and information that document the founding and functioning of one of Brooklyn’s most significant institutions, and at present are completely unavailable to researchers.

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Cooper Union Chanin School of Architecture

Cooper Union Chanin School of Architecture is using its grants to continue a project, begun with federal support, to catalogue and digitize the student work of graduates including Elizabeth Diller, Toshiko Mori and many more. Taken together, the archives also document the school’s radical approach to teaching architecture, which embraces engagement with art, the humanities and engineering, and which has influenced pedagogy at other schools of architecture.

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Frick Center for the History of Collecting

Frick Center for the History of Collecting has been awarded grants to support long-term fellowships for senior scholars who use the Frick Art Reference Library and other archival resources in research aligned with the mission of the Frick’s Center for the History of Collecting. In 2020, the Center welcomed Dr. Michele Bogart, a distinguished scholar from Stony Brook University, who’s project is titled: “ Art Collectors as Public Monument Sponsors in Late Nineteenth-Century New York City.”

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by Andrea Kane

Institute for Advanced Study

The Institute for Advanced Study is home to the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center, which is collecting, processing and making accessible the papers of many distinguished scholars who have worked at IAS since its founding in 1930 as an independent academic institution. This institutional archive will allow the papers of the many luminaries to remain together.

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Juilliard Dance Division students rehearsing Doris Humphrey's Passacaglia and Fugue. Alumna Pina Bausch in foreground.

The Juilliard School

The Juilliard School is a world leader in performing arts education. Accessing and understanding its history and place is integral to the school’s model and to the performing arts community at large. The Juilliard Archives is the official repository for materials pertaining to this legacy. Leon Levy Foundation is supporting this effort by granting funds to preserve and digitize Julliard's critical historic archival materials, including scrapbooks, production photos, and concert programs.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art

The all-important papers of the directors and senior staff of the Metropolitan Museum, from its founding in 1870 to the 1990s—which tell the museum’s history—have been catalogued, indexed in finding aids and posted online. The institutional records of the museum’s Costume Institute from the 1940s to the 1990s were also processed.

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Charles Dickens Autograph Letters by Graham S. Haber

The Morgan Library and Museum

Leon Levy Foundation grants have allowed the Morgan to upgrade the catalogue of its important collection of historic and literary manuscripts, including works by Gibbon, Newton, Darwin, Yeats and the Brontë sisters. These new records allow scholars to access portions of the collection that had previously been unknown, and have made possible exhibitions on Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and others.

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Museum of the City of New York

Museum of the City of New York fosters understanding of the distinctive nature of urban life in the world’s most influential metropolis. Approaching its centennial year in 2023, the Museum has identified stewardship of its institutional archives as a priority initiative. The Leon Levy Foundation as granted support to achieve this critical goal, allowing for greater understanding of the Museum’s first 100 years, as they prepare for the next century.

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Museum of Modern Art

MoMA was awarded grants to catalogue and digitize the records of the hundreds of exhibitions it has presented from its founding through 2000, from checklists to exhibition photographs, and make them all available online. Previous grants paid for the organization and creation of the records of MoMA PS1 and to help catalogue the archives of legendary dealer Paul Rosenberg.

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National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy

With Foundation support, the Conservancy created The Manhattan Sites Archives Project, which described and re-housed the holdings of the six sites in the city, digitizing about 1,400 images from the documents, maps and other items that date to 1641, and putting them online. Among them were letters showing the inner workings of the Continental Congress and a mourning scarf for Alexander Hamilton.

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Winter Twilight Near Albany

New-York Historical Society

N-YHS is building its first-ever accessible archive of electronic material in all formats with a new, major Leadership award from the Foundation. The Shelby White & Leon Levy Digital Library project will both document the last three decades of the New-York Historical’s history, and implement best practices for digital archiving. It will also position New-York Historical to begin actively collecting digital material as part of its collection development program, including documents, photographs, PowerPoint presentations, audio files, and video stored on a variety of media.

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New York Philharmonic

With materials dating to 1842, the New York Philharmonic’s rich and well-kept archives were digitized and described with Foundation support in one of the world’s most ambitious and comprehensive archival digitization programs. Printed programs, marked conducting scores, contracts, board meeting minutes, photographs and much more are now available all over the world in the Shelby White & Leon Levy Digital Archives.

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New York Public Radio

As New York Public Radio approaches its Centennial, it begins a multiyear grant from the Leon Levy Foundation to support the preservation of nearly 100 years of WNYC and WQXR archival assets. This grant will help transform the New York Public Radio digital infrastructure and facilitate greater public access to the historic materials by creating the Shelby White & Leon Levy Digital Archives.

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Robert Frost

Poets House

Past grants have enabled Poets House—the most comprehensive poetry collection available to the public in open stacks anywhere in the US—to catalogue to current standards the literary journals, chapbooks and other materials in its collection; to create an institutional archive, including commissioned oral histories; and to digitize a selection of rare materials for posting online.

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Roundabout Theatre

Before receiving a planning grant from the Foundation, Roundabout had no archive of its history. Several grants later, it has amassed, acquired and catalogued papers, costumes, production bibles, brochures, show posters, photos, and recordings, creating a comprehensive collection of its history; posted many items and finding aids online, and presented exhibitions of this theater history.

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Hornaday's Scrapbook

Wildlife Conservation Society

A recent grant created the Shelby White & Leon Levy Archives Film Collection Initiative, enabling WCS to restore and make accessible over 100 historic scientific films dating back to the1930s. Past gifts supported the recovery and digitization of historical records of the Global Conservation Program, Ornithology Department, three City Zoos, the Aquarium dating to the 1980s and the scrapbooks of William T. Hornaday, first director of the Bronx Zoo and a fierce advocate for wildlife.

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The Leon Levy Archives Program has also given support to:
Archaeological Institute of America, Archives of American Art, Brooklyn Historical Society, Center for Khmer Studies,
Center for Jewish History, Hancock Shaker Village, House of the Redeemer, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum,
Jewish Museum, Maine Historical Society, Manhattan Theatre Club, Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance, Municipal Arts Society, Museum of the City of New York, National Academy Museum and School, New York City Ballet, New York City Centre, New York City Opera, New York Preservation Archives Project, New York Public Library,
Ping Chong and Company, Poetry Society of America, Printed Matter, School of the American Ballet,
Shaker Museum and Library, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Wilson Center and The Writers Room.