Agency history, 1965-1981

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  • Cogswell, Margaret
  • Bingham, Lois A
  • Dunn, William M
  • United States Information Agency
  • United States Department of State
  • National Collection of Fine Arts (U.S.) International Art Program
  • National Collection of Fine Arts (U.S.) Office of Exhibitions Abroad
  • Biennale di Venezia


Agency History


  • This is an agency history. It does not describe actual records. The Smithsonian Institution Archives uses these histories as brief accounts of the origin, development, and functions of an office or administrative unit to set that unit in its historical context. To find information on record holdings, please double-click the highlighted field "Creator/Author", which will open on a brief view of relevant records.
  • Guide to the Smithsonian Archives, 1996
  • The mission and activities of the Office of Program Support date back to the mid-1940s, when the Department of State administered United States exhibition activities overseas. In 1954 this activity was transferred to the United States Information Agency (USIA). The USIA organized and circulated art exhibitions abroad and, in the years immediately preceding 1965, supported American participation in international art shows.
  • In November 1965 the Smithsonian Institution and the USIA agreed that the Smithsonian would assume the responsibility for an international exchange program of art exhibitions; support American entries in international art exhibitions, in particular, the Venice and Sao Paulo Biennales; and service the United States Information Services' field requests, when possible. The USIA would continue to be responsible for national exhibitions presented in the Soviet Union and East European countries.
  • The International Art Program (IAP), the office responsible for the USIA activities in this area, was transferred to the control of the National Collection of Fine Arts (NCFA). Three program employees were detailed to NCFA; the USIA agreed to continue providing financial assistance for projects begun before the program transfer had been made. In July 1966, IAP personnel, Lois A. Bingham, Chief, Margaret Cogswell, Deputy Chief, and William M. Dunn, Exhibits Officer, became permanent NCFA staff members.
  • Between 1965 and 1970, most of the exhibition budget for IAP was directed to the large international shows, most notably the Biennales. After the threatened boycott of American artists at the Venice Biennale in 1970, the Smithsonian reassessed its role in the international art shows, not wanting to get involved in politics and the consequences of such activity in its relations with artists. At the same time, the USIA no longer felt that the international shows were the most useful means of reaching audiences abroad. As a result, both agreed that IAP would provide smaller exhibitions for USIA use -- a minimum of six a year. NCFA, however, continued to assist American entries in the larger international shows by encouraging private institutions to provide support for them. In 1973, IAP became the Office of Exhibitions Abroad (OEA), reflecting the changes in its mission. Bingham continued as Chief of OEA.
  • By 1976-1977, OEA's funding and budgetary support for packaging shows for USIA were waning. In 1977, the Office title was changed to the Office of Program Support, with Bingham as Chief of the Office. The program of the new office became more restrictive, working with NCFA staff in assisting and developing NCFA projects. For other types of exhibitions, the Office was to seek outside financial support. In FY 1980, Bingham became Coordinator of Program Support; and by the end of 1981 the Office ceased all operations.
  • For a history of the larger creating unit, refer to "Forms part of above."

Repository Loc.

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520


  • 1965
  • 1965-1981


  • Art museums
  • Education
  • International relations
  • Museums
  • Museum exhibits
  • Museums--Educational aspects


Mixed archival materials

Local number

SIA AH00163

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