The Design Commission maintains an extensive archive that documents its work since it was founded in 1898 and provides a unique view into the history of New York City’s public works.
Dating from 1902, the exhibition files contain original drawings, photographs and architectural plans that document the Design Commission’s review of nearly 7,000 sites throughout New York City.
In addition to the exhibition files, the Design Commission maintains collections of materials acquired by Design Commission members and staff.
- Correspondence Files: This collection contains more than 80,000 letters and memos from 1898 through the 1960s that document the design review process and provide a lively commentary on the history of public design in New York City.
- Photograph Collection: Collected by the Commission’s staff for reference purposes, these photographs of parks, streets, public and commercial buildings, historic houses, murals, portraits and sculptures date from the 1850s to the 1920s.
- Frank Cousins Collection: In 1913, Frank Cousins was hired by the Commission to document approximately 50 buildings and architectural details that the Commission felt were in danger of imminent demolition.
- Milo R. Maltbie Collection: In 1903, the Commission’s Assistant Secretary Milo R. Maltbie toured 16 European cities and collected numerous European prints, maps, plans, pamphlets and postcards to be used by the Commission for reference and inspiration.
- Karl Gruppe’s Film Reels: These films were created by sculptor Karl Gruppe to document various monument conservation projects undertaken by the New York City Parks Department, where he worked from 1934 to 1937. Gruppe was a Commission member from 1944 to 1947.
A portion of the Design Commission’s special collections, including 24 scrapbooks, 1,000 glass plate negatives and 300 nitrate and acetate negatives, were transferred to the Municipal Archives of New York City. Digital images of the nitrate and acetate negatives are available through the Municipal Archives’ online gallery.