Design + Archives: Star Search

Searching through the Smithsonian Institution Archives collections to find our who designed the star logo for the National Collection of Fine Arts.

120th Anniversary brochure for the National Collection of Fine Arts (now the Smithsonian American Ar

In December there was a question that came in about who designed the star logo for the National Collection of Find Arts (now the Smithsonian American Art Museum). As I had featured the logo in one of my previous blog posts, the task of figuring out this nugget of Smithsonian history came to me. A quick search for "star" and "National Collection of Fine Arts" in our finding aids led me first to Record Unit 319: National Collection of Fine Arts, Publication Editor, Departmental Records, 1967-1970. In Box 1 there was a folder titled, "Star symbol, 1968". The folder sounded like a pretty solid lead and I went ahead and requested the box from our offsite storage facility.

Star Symbol memorandum, August 30, 1968. Record Unit 319: National Collection of Fine Arts, Publicat

With the folder in hand, I came across this memo from Georgia Rhoades, editor at the National Collection. Upon reading it a piece of the puzzle came in the form of "design received from Architectural Graphics Association, Inc." Could this be the answer? Unfortunately the folder held no further information about the design of the star logo. However, now armed with the possibility that "Architectural Graphics Association, Inc." was responsible for the design I had another search term to continue my hunt.

Searching our findings for "Architectural Graphics" opened up more collections to consult, not just one but four no less. In Record Unit 313, Box 76 there was the folder "Architectural Graphics Associates, 1964-1969;" from Record Unit 314, Box 22 there was the folder "Stationary Architectural Graphics, 1965-1970;" from Record Unit 318, Box 2 there was the folder "Architectural Graphics, 1967;" and from Record Unit 447, Box 13 there was the folder "NCFA Letterhead, Architectural Graphics, 1965-1968." After consulting these collections the answer was found; Jane Davis Doggett and Dorothy C. Jackson of Architectural Graphics Associates, Inc. of New Canaan, Connecticut were the designers behind the National Collection of Fine Arts (NCFA) star logo.

Correspondence and Memoranda related to Architectural Graphics, 1965-1968. Record Unit 447: National

In speaking of the logo to Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, NCFA Director David W. Scott had the following to say:

I feel that the star suggests tradition and a national organization; and that the treatment of the star suggests an activity that is contemporary, dynamic and artistically concerned.

A the same time, the symbol is fresh, distinctive, and adaptable for a variety of treatments (banners, labels, letterheads, embossed invitations, etc.).

The star logo was the perfect way to usher in the NCFA's (and the National Portrait Gallery's) move into their new space at the old Patent Office Building and symbolic of a new era for the museum.

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