The Cleveland Museum of Art

Series Outline
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Records of the May Show

General Overview of the Records

The May Show records document the Exhibition of Artists and Craftsmen of the Western Reserve. They were created by the museum departments that directly administered the May Show, mainly the Director's Office, the Department of Modern Art and the Registrar's Office. The records reflect the activity both within and between museum departments. The collection is divided into eight series determined by originating office and medium. The largest was created by the Department of Modern Art. Series descriptions provide detailed information about the contents of the records.

The Director's Office was the initial custodian of the May Show records. The files, which span the years 1919 to 1993, remain in original order. The bulk of the records, 1919-1950, consist of correspondence (incoming and outgoing) arranged chronologically. The files become sparse in 1950 with no records extant from 1951 through 1956. While May Show activities are documented continuously in the Director's office from 1957 through 1993, the content of the files shift from correspondence among the artists and jurors to more general information about the May Show. The files are labeled as correspondence but may also include press packets, bulletins, drafts, memoranda, photographs, and posters, particularly in the years following 1957.

Although the Director still wielded influence over the show, the records reflect a shift in responsibility toward Modern Art in the 1970s. The department organized a May Show office and operated it through an appointed coordinator who worked with staff members both in Modern Art and many other departments in the museum. Although the department was not formed until 1972, its precursor, Contemporary Art, contributed to the May Show effort, so some of the records pre-date the department's formation. It is also likely that records originally in the Director's Office were transferred to the May Show office when the Department of Modern Art became responsible for the bulk of the May Show work. The records in this series are arranged by record type with subject headings where appropriate. Within each subseries, the records are usually arranged chronologically.

Preparation of the yearly exhibition is illustrated in the interoffice memoranda, cost expense reports, patron and press preview events, and employment and volunteer records. Statistical information outlining the number of entrants, attendants, and sales by week provide a numerical evaluation of the May Show. Correspondence related to awards, conservation and damages, and special installation instructions address individual artists and their concerns. The original sales records for the years 1959-1967, 1976, 1990, and 1993 list the buyer, seller, artwork, and sale amount. Records of the Traveling Exhibition, though limited from 1956-1978, can be found in this series. The bulk of the records about the Traveling Exhibition date from 1972-1973. A separate series exists for the special exhibition Insight/Onsite. The collection also include the series artists' information which includes biographical materials for selected artists and index cards listing each artist and the year each entered works in the May Show. Relevant copies of The Bulletin of The Cleveland Museum of Art, located in the series of printed materials, provide the catalog for the May Show each yea except for the first three, when a separate catalog was printed. All of these materials aid in identifying artists whose works were exhibited in the May Show. The records also include press releases, photographs, invitations, newspaper clippings, and posters from the Director's Office and the Department of Modern Art. There is small number of audio and video tapes. Electronic files include six 5 ¼ diskettes from Modern Art, the files of which duplicate the paper records. The paper records reference the electronic files where appropriate. The electronic files have also been copied to the museum's server.

The May Show artist entry forms and sales records were transferred to archives and added to the collection in August 2006. The artist entry forms contain information on the objects each artist entered in the May Show and whether the objects were accepted to or rejected from the exhibition. The sales records served as the checklist for the exhibition and track sales of May Show object by both artist and buyer. Most sales records years contain gallery views where the objects are identified.