Scope and arrangement
The Berenice Abbott papers contain correspondence, writings, photographs, and personal materials relating to the life and career of the noted photographer. The bulk of the collection consists of personal and business letters that Abbott received. The correspondents include notable artists, writers, and public figures, art galleries, universities, photographic magazines, scientific journals, and publishers. The subjects of the correspondence range from requests for copies of photographs, business propositions, plans for exhibits, requests for interviews, and other subjects relating to Abbott's work as well as notes from friends and family. Notable correspondents include Djuna Barnes, Kay Boyle, Cornell Capa, Lisette Model, Marianne Moore, and Jacqueline Onassis. The correspondence contains few replies from Abbott. The bulk of the correspondence dates from the late 1950's to 1991, though the 1920's are represented in her correspondence with André Calmette, Pierre MacOrlan, Evelyn Scott, Jules Romains and Lucia Joyce.
The personal miscellany series contains a family history, interviews, passports and copies of Abbott's will, among other items. Of interest in this series is a list of prominent individuals who were invited to Abbott's memorial service, and an interview conducted by the WPA in 1939, which provides insight into Abbott's work style and her personality. The family history folder includes inquiries after birth certificates, and notes and letters that Abbott collected in the 1980's.
Abbott's writings contain not only personal biographical statements that Abbott used for brochures and gallery programs, but diaries and notebooks that Abbott kept for her own personal use. The entries in the diaries are sporadic, but do contain details about Abbott's daily life. The notebooks are more varied, some containing notes on science and the economy, others ideas for photography subjects and means by which she could improve her equipment.
The photographs series contains photographs and snapshots taken by Abbott herself later in life, as well as photographs of Abbott with her family and friends, and documentation of the layout and exhibit spaces for several of Abbott's photography exhibitions. Abbott collected copies of photographs of Greenwich Village, the Erie Canal, and an entire set of reproductions of works by Chansonetta Emmons. These images are all reproductions of photographs made in the early part of the 20th century.
The Berenice Abbott papers are arranged in four series: