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The Cooper Union Archives & Special Collections

The Margaret Morton collection

by Mary Mann on 2024-03-27T17:15:00-04:00 in Archives, Art | 0 Comments

Margaret Morton, 2018, via Margaret Morton ArchiveMargaret Morton (1948-2020) walked to her teaching job at The Cooper Union School of Art from her apartment on East 10th Street. In the 1980s, this meant passing structure after structure created by unhoused New Yorkers, each unique - a city within a city that grew until it completely filled Tompkins Square Park. Morton began to photograph these structures and talk to the people who'd built them. This was the beginning of her life's work: using photos and oral histories to chronicle the lives and ingenuity of people at the edge of society. 

Well, one of her life's works, anyway. Through her years spent getting to know the inhabitants of vacant lots, tunnels, and abandoned buildings, Morton also worked at The Cooper Union, teaching 2DD, graphic design, Art of the Book, and photography up until her retirement in 2018. She also managed the foreign exchange program, helping students engage with the wider world beyond the college walls. 

Morton gave nearly four decades to The Cooper Union, and now she's given us even more: this winter, the Margaret Morton Archive donated sixteen boxes of material documenting Morton's work and time at Cooper, including lesson planning, reference materials, and student work; administrative material relating to exchange programs, School of Art governance, and the faculty union; and Cooper-produced publications and exhibit ephemera. These materials give us insight into the teaching practices of a truly remarkable artist and the ways in which her art informed her teaching and vice versa, as well as a glimpse at the relationship between the ideals of a free college and the rapidly changing neighborhood that Morton documented.


Interested in learning more? Search the Margaret Morton collection finding aid. If you'd like to view particular materials in person, please reach out to us at 

Additionally, if you're interested in learning more about Margaret Morton's artwork, the Cooper Union Library holds several books of her photographs:

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