Modern Artifacts 15: The Healing Arts


“The Museum’s archives are replete with documents attesting to the success of the program. One soldier wrote, ‘The need for finding something to hold on to, to satisfy some unknown inner urge, had become a predominant one—to overcome and satisfy the soul-searching caused by the war and its terrible consequences…. The Center was a factor in helping me pass through such a stage [and] making me realize that the value of creative stimuli far outweighs any material benefit.’”—Michelle Elligott 

The ongoing Esopus series “Modern Artifacts” is presented in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art Archives. Each installment offers an example from MoMA’s extensive holdings of documents relating to the history and development of modern and contemporary art, introduced by the Museum’s Chief of Archives, Michelle Elligott. For this installment, we present a range of materials related to the Museum's Armed Services Program, which provided art and occupational therapy to World World II veterans in the 1940s through its War Veterans’ Art Center.

Michelle Elligott is Chief of Archives, Library, and Research Collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Museum Studies at New York University. Her award-winning publications include Modern Artifacts (2020), René d’Harnoncourt and the Art of Installation (2018), and Art in Our Time: A Chronicle of the Museum of Modern Art (2004). Elligott was a Center for Curatorial Leadership International Fellow in 2016 and a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece, in 2005. She holds a B.A. from Smith College and an M.A. from Hunter College, CUNY, both in Art History.