A day at a museum might involve a whirlwind tour through a maze of galleries or hours looking at a single work of art. The experience is as varied as the museum visitor. The sight of a Renaissance masterpiece, the sounds echoing off vaulted ceilings, or a carefully orchestrated exhibition can trigger our imaginations, foster ideas, or spur memories—often at the same time.
Artists may gain inspiration and a sense of community from museums. Some travel long distances, meticulously plotting a tour of museums along their route. Others make repeat visits to their local museums. Some artists even work in museums as guards all day and then head home to focus on their own work.
This selection of documents reveals the role of museums in the everyday lives of American artists.