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Ansel Adams archive

Identifier: AG 31

Scope and Contents

This collection has arrived at the Center in various accession lots since 1976. Master prints by Adams and master prints in his personal photography collection were stored in the Center's master print collection. Assistants at Adams’ studio arranged some series, such as the correspondence, before being sent here. While its alphabetical arrangement was retained, the entire correspondence series was examined and some re-filing was done to assure consistency and uniform access points for the numerous personal and corporate headings. Original order was observed while arranging the collection, however, much sorting and filing within the collection was necessary. The majority of the series and subseries headings were imposed upon the collection by the processors.

In conjunction with this inventory, users are cautioned to examine the guide to the Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Collection because, as biographer to Adams, Nancy Newhall had access to Adams' papers and no doubt had some of them in her New Mexico home at the time of her death. Note also that before this present arrangement was completed in 1984-85, several volunteers and staff members did some sorting and interfiling of newly received materials into the collection.

This collection was ultimately processed with grant funds from the United States Department of Education.

Although Adams claimed that he never planned on becoming an institution, the papers and photographic materials in his archive serve as a solid and fundamental basis for any serious study of the aesthetic and educational aspects of his career. Fortunately, Adams kept a considerable amount of his incoming correspondence with his fellow photographers and patrons from the mid-30s onward. Unfortunately, many documents which might have provided a more introspective and complete record of his life and times as a photographer - diaries, appointment books, speeches -either were not kept or are not evident in this collection. Adams eschewed the tedious rigors of dating things (one letter was dated in red ink "whothehellcareswhatdayitis -itsnow"); perhaps he was confident that his friends, historians Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, or editors, Mary Alinder and Andrea Stillman, would prove detectives par excellence for the verification of dates for important photographs and letters. Nevertheless, Adams did preserve a wealth of personal and professional information. His autobiography avoided a straight chronological recapitulation of events, instead, he opted for a recollection of his "varieties of experience" culled from his memory. He continues, "When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence." The first photograph in the autobiography is his "Self Portrait, Monument Valley, Utah, 1958."

By any account, Adams must be judged a generous man. He struggled to promote photography in academies and museums on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. He dedicated his considerable political and artistic skills to the conservation of the wilderness. He donated his expansive home in Carmel to underwrite future operations of the Friends of Photography. Finally, he has shared with the world his personal papers, letters, manuscripts, and photographs, which provide tangible witness and accounting of the currents that have moved photography to its place in the late twentieth-century American milieu. Adams lived a full eighty-two years. His legacy will be more fully realized in the coming decades; his spirit will serve as example and encouragement to future generations.

In a major way, the donation and purchase of this archive established the Center for Creative Photography. After an exhibition of his prints at the University of Arizona's Museum of Art in 1973, Adams began a dialogue with its president, John P. Schaefer, from which the reality of the Center emerged.


  • 1906 - 1984


Conditions Governing Access

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Access

The negatives are currently inaccessible due to renovations in CCP's cold storage facility. Negatives will be accessible once the renovation is complete and the negative boxes have been transferred to the new frozen storage space. The estimated date of availability is mid-year of 2023, although not guaranteed. Please be sure to email with any questions or for updates.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner (which could be the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates or literary executors) prior to any copyright-protected uses of the collection. The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement.


447 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


Papers, photographic materials, and memorabilia, 1920s -1984, of Ansel Adams (1902 - 1984), photographer, author, teacher and conservationist. Includes correspondence (1906 - 1984) between Adams and his family, friends, business associates, and other artists; activity files documenting his commercial projects (1930s - 1977); exhibitions (1936 - 1983); his associations with the Sierra Club (1937 - 1984), Friends of Photography (1967 - 1984), and Images and Words Workshop (1967 - 1972); writings, lectures, and interviews (1931 - 1982); publications with Morgan and Morgan (1950 - 1975), 5 Associates (1952 - 1979), and New York Graphic Society (1973 - 1983); photographic materials including work, reproduction, and exhibition prints; printed materials including reproductions of his work in periodicals and a portion of his personal library; audio and visual materials relating to interviews with him; and memorabilia including awards, certificates, equipment, and clothing. (ca. 447 linear feet)


Three linear feet of books and periodicals, not annotated by Adams, from his personal library were transferred to the University of Arizona and Center for Creative Photography libraries. Lists for parts of this transfer are available.


This collection began arriving at the Center for Creative Photography in 1976 and was donated by Ansel Adams.


Medical records and recommendations for grants and employment are restricted.

Ansel Adams archive
Finding aid created by Jen Stack
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository

1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States