The Milwaukee Art Museum will be moving its art library, archives and related programs to the historic Judge Jason Downer mansion on Prospect Avenue. In preparation for this transition, the Museum library and archives is now closed and will reopen as the newly named Milwaukee Art Museum Research Center in Fall 2017.
The collections of the George Mann Niedecken Archives consist primarily of the design drawings for interior furnishings, including furniture, rugs, window treatments, lighting, and murals, executed by George Mann Niedecken. The collections contain office records, documents, furniture catalogs, and ephemera of the Niedecken-Walbridge Company, as well as vintage photographs of Niedecken-designed interiors. The collection also includes drawings and paintings of various subjects completed by Niedecken while he was an art student and throughout his life. In addition, the archives comprises a limited number of records relating to other Prairie School architects and designers, including design drawings for homes and furniture by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as correspondence between Wright and Albert Adelman. The collection further contains a large number of Russell Barr Williamson architectural home designs.
Originally known as the Prairie Archives, it was renamed the George Mann Niedecken Archives to better reflect the contents of the collection. It was established in 1977 with the gift of George Mann Niedecken design drawings and Niedecken-Walbridge Company records from Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Jacobson. A further large donation from Dean T. Niedecken, including many of Niedecken’s personal items, was acquired by the Archives in 1977-78. Gifts of related material were added to the collection in the years that followed. Two exhibitions by former Milwaukee Art Museum decorative arts curator Cheryl Robertson have used material from these collections—The Domestic Scene (1897-1927): George M. Niedecken, Interior Architect (1981) and Frank Lloyd Wright and George Mann Niedecken: Prairie School Collaborators (1997, publication 1999).
With support provided by the Mae E. Demmer Charitable Trust, the Milwaukee Art Museum has nearly completed a project to fully inventory, digitally catalog and re-house the George Mann Niedecken Archives collection. In this way, the project will achieve its goal of making the material more accessible to researchers and the public alike.