Medieval Museums and Archives in NYC

The Cloisters

New York City and its environs are blessed with an impressive number of museums, libraries, and archives that have medieval holdings, including those listed here.

The Cloisters
The Cloisters Museum and Gardens contains the bulk of the medieval holdings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including architectural elements, sculpture, tapestries, paintings, enamels, stained glass, and metalwork; the collection is especially strong in the religious art of the high to late middle ages.  The building, which incorporates columns and other elements (including chapels and a chapter house) from five medieval monasteries, sits on four acres of gardens and park overlooking the Hudson River.  Medieval gardens have been placed within the three reconstructed medieval monastic cloisters.  The Cloisters hosts special exhibitions, lectures, gallery talks, concerts, and performances.   The Cloisters Library includes both an extensive collection of works on medieval art and papers of art historians and collectors of medieval art. Open seven days a week.  The admission fee is recommended, not required, and is also good for admission to the Met on the same day.  Located at 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park in north Manhattan.
Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library
The library includes many medieval manuscripts, including 400 codices or fragments bequeathed to Columbia University by George Arthur Plimpton, and over 700 documents, such as deeds, accounts, and wills, which researchers can locate by using the online Digital Scriptorium catalog.  Researchers who wish to view manuscripts are advised to make an appointment in advance, particularly since many manuscripts ae stored off-site.  The Library also hosts exhibitions and the Book History Colloquium.  Access requires special registration procedures in advance of visiting, as noted here. Open M-F, 9-4:45 p.m. Located on 6th Floor East of Butler Library, 535 West 114th St., New York, NY 10027.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met houses some medieval art at its main building, but far more is located at its medieval museum, the Cloisters. It also hosts special exhibitions, tours, gallery talks, and lectures, most of which are free with museum admission.  Many items are featured online, including over 120 medieval works. Researchers can apply to work at the Thomas J. Watson Library, one of the world's most comprehensive collections of books and periodicals relating to the history of art; see also its digitized collections of archival materials and guides. The Onassis Library for Hellenic and Roman Art and the Antonio Ratti Textile Center and Reference Library also contain archives and research collections of interest to medievalists; both are open to researchers on application. Admission to the museum is on the basis of a recommended not required fee, that is also good for admission to the Cloisters on the same day.  Located at 1000 Fifth Avenue in Central Park on the upper East Side of Manhattan.
New York Public Library
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building houses the NYPL's research collections, including a very large non-circulating library of books and periodicals; see the online catalog for its holdings.  A photo ID is required to order books.  The building also houses the NYPL Archives and Manuscripts Division, which includes the Renaissance and medieval manuscripts collection, c. 850-1600, the Arabic manuscripts collection, c. 677-1893, the Armenian manuscripts collection, c. 1300-1639, and the Old Irish manuscripts undated.   Registration to use this material is required, and should be done in advance via the online form. The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, in Room 117, is one of the best map collections in the world, housing maps from the fifteenth century and later. The library is located on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan.
The Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum
Based on the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), a major collector of drawings, prints, and illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, the collection has grown over the years to include music scores, seals, and other art objects. The online searchable catalogue (CORSAIR) provides extensive information about the holdings, and many items in the collection may be viewed online, including medieval illuminations and special exhibitions. The collection is especially strong in medieval and renaissance manuscripts.  Researchers may apply to see particular manuscripts or reference items at the Sherman Fairchild Reading Room.  The Morgan offers fellowships and internships, as well as opportunities for volunteer work.  The Museum is open every day but Monday; there is an admission charge,  with discounts for students and seniors; the admission fee is waived on Fridays from 7-9 p.m. Located at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016.