Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 9566
Hirshhorn, Olga, interviewee
Olga Hirshhorn Oral History Interviews, 1986-1988
Olga Hirshhorn (1920-2015), an art collector, was instrumental in the founding of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Born Olga Zatorsky, she was raised in Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended New York University and from 1939 to 1962 was married to John Cunningham. She established several of her own businesses, including a day care center and a business services firm, Services Unlimited. In 1964, she married financier and art collector, Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1900-1981), also a resident of Greenwich. She assisted her husband with his career and art avocation and began her own collection of modern art. The Hirshhorns were important figures in the art world and formed lasting friendships with many artists. In 1966, at the urging of Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, Joseph Hirshhorn donated his modern art collection to the Smithsonian Institution. In 1974, it opened as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The Smithsonian Institution Archives began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives' record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program staff conducts interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also interviews conducted by researchers or students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
The Olga Hirshhorn interviews were accessioned into the Oral History Collection because of her close association with Joseph H. Hirshhorn, the development of the Joseph H. Hirshhorn collection and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Additional oral history interviews of Olga Zatorsky Hirshhorn are located in the collections at the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.
The Olga Zatorsky Hirshhorn Interviews were conducted during nine sessions between 1986 and 1998. Judith Zilzcer of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and Pamela M. Henson of the Smithsonian Institution Archives conducted the first eight interviews between 1986 and 1988. An additional interview was conducted by Sidney S. Lawrence, III, Head of Public Affairs, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and Judith Zilczer, Curator, Hirshhorn Museum in 1998. The interviews consist of approximately 13.5 hours of audiotape recordings and 474 pages of transcript.
These interviews of Olga Hirshhorn by Judith Zilczer, Curator, Hirshhorn Museum, and Pamela M. Henson, Smithsonian Institution Archives, discuss her youth; education; child-rearing years; careers in day care and business services; marriage to Joseph H. Hirshhorn; their travels; art collecting; meetings with S. Dillon Ripley; and the decision to donate the collection to the Smithsonian. Included are reminiscences of such art figures as Willem de Kooning, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, and Man Ray. The interview of Hirshhorn by Sidney S. Lawrence, III, Judith Zilczer, and Meghan Tierney, Intern, discusses a photograph collection of portraits collected by Olga Hishhorn and includes reminiscences of artists and other important figures in the art world. Appended to the interviews is Hirshhorn's 1986 lecture entitled, "My Life with Joe."
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Hirshhorn, Olga
- Hirshhorn, Joseph H.
- Moore, Henry, 1898-1986
- Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973
- Ray, Man, 1890-1976
- Ripley, S. Dillon (Sidney Dillon), 1913-2001
- De Kooning, Willem, 1904-1997
- Zilczer, Judith, interviewer
- Henson, Pamela M., interviewer
- Lawrence, Sidney, 1948-, interviewer
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- Services Unlimited (Greenwich, Connecticut)
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9566, Olga Hirshhorn Oral History Interviews