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Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Record Unit 9604

Blitzer, Charles, interviewee

Oral history interviews with Charles Blitzer, 1985-1986

Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C. Contact us at osiaref@si.edu.
Creator: Blitzer, Charles, interviewee
Title: Oral history interviews with Charles Blitzer
Dates: 1985-1986
Quantity: 10 audiotapes (Reference copies).
Collection: Record Unit 9604
Language of Materials: English
Summary:

These interviews of Blitzer, conducted by Pamela M. Henson, cover his education, teaching career, work at the Smithsonian as director of the Office of Education and Training and as Assistant Secretary for History and Art, and reminiscences of colleagues, especially S. Dillon Ripley.

Historical Note

Charles Blitzer (1927-1999), an academic administrator, received the bachelors from Williams College in 1947, and the Ph.D. in government from Harvard University in 1952. He served as an instructor and assistant professor of political science at Yale University from 1950 to 1960, and as executive associate, American Council of Learned Societies from 1960 to 1965, before joining the staff of the Smithsonian in 1965. Blitzer was director of the Office of Education and Training at the Smithsonian from 1965 to 1968 and Assistant Secretary for History and Art from 1968 to 1983. He served as director of the National Humanities Center from 1983 to 1988 and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1988 to 1997.

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Introduction

The Oral History Program is part of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. The purpose of the program is to conduct interviews with current and retired members of the Smithsonian staff who have made significant contributions, administrative and scholarly, to the Institution. The project's goal is to supplement the published record and manuscript collections in the Archives, focusing on the history of the Institution and contributions to the increase and diffusion of knowledge made by its scholars.

The Charles Blitzer interviews were conducted as part of the Smithsonian Institution Archives Oral History Program because of his role as a Smithsonian administrator from 1965 to 1983, especially as Assistant Secretary for History and Art.

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Descriptive Entry

The Charles Blitzer Interviews were conducted during four sessions in 1985 and 1986 by Smithsonian Archives Historian Pamela M. Henson. This collection consists of four interview sessions, totaling approximately 9 hours of recordings, 272 pages of transcript, and occupies 0.5 cubic feet of shelf space. There are three generations of recordings for each session: original audiotapes, preservation digital .wav files, and reference audiocassette tapes and .mp3 audio files. In total, this collection is comprised of 10 original 5" reel-to-reel audiotapes, 10 reference copy audio cassette tapes, 18 digital .wav files, and 18 digital .mp3 files. The original audiotapes and .wav files are reserved in preservation storage. Box 1 contains transcripts of the interviews and cassette and digital copies of the original recordings.

Additional documentation pertaining to Blitzer can be found in the Records of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for History and Art.

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Preferred Citation

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9604, Blitzer, Charles, interviewee, Oral history interviews with Charles Blitzer

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Container List

Box 1

Transcripts of Interviews

Interview 1: 20 August 1985

Box 1 of 1
Discusses his youth and education; undergraduate studies at William College working under Richard Ager Newhall and Frederick Lewis Schuman; doctoral degree at Harvard University studying the history of political theory with William Yandell Elliott and Carl Joachim Friedrich; teaching career at Yale University; role as an Alderman for the City of New Haven; move to the American Council of Learned Societies as fellowship administrator; founding of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities; directorship of the Office of Education and Training; Smithsonian Research Awards program; planning for the Belmont Conference Center, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the John F.Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; and work with the Pennsylvania Avenue Commission, c. 1927-1970.
Transcript, c. 1927-, pp. 1-150 of audiotape recording, 4.0 hours.

Interview 2: 16 September 1985

Box 1 of 1
Focuses on his role as an administrator, continuing discussion of the Woodrow Wilson Center; the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum; his role as Acting and then permanent Assistant Secretary for History and Art; role of James C. Bradley and Dorothy Rosenberg; working relationship with Secretary S. Dillon Ripley; status of history and art in relationship to science at Smithsonian; Freer Gallery of Art; attempt to rationalize collections so they did not overlap; opening of National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) in the old Patent Office Building; the International Art Program and other art programs with political ties; development of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; and Joshua Taylor as director of SAAM, c. 1960s-1970s.
Transcript 1-45, of audiotape recording, 2.0 hours.

Interview 3: 27 January 1986

Box 1 of 1
Discusses his role as Assistant Secretary for History and Art, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum; development of the Renwick Gallery; activities of Robert Hilton Simmons; Marvin Sadik as director of the National Portrait Gallery; the 1967 acquisition of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum; c. 1960s-1970s.
Transcript, pp. 1-37, of audiotape recording, 1.5 hours.

Interview 4: 12 September 1986

Box 1 of 1
Completes his discussion of his role as Assistant Secretary for History and Art, focusing on the Cooper-Hewitt Museum with Lisa Suter Taylor as director; the Archives of American Art; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, c. 1970s-1980s.
Transcript, pp. 1-40, of audiotape recording, 1.5 hours.

Audio Recordings of Interviews

Interview 1: 20 August 1985

Box 1 of 1
Total Recording Time: 4.0 hours
Original Masters: 4 5" reel-to-reel analog audiotapes
Preservation Masters: 8 digital .wav files
Reference Copies: 4 audiotape cassettes; 8 digital .mp3 files

Interview 2: 16 September 1985

Box 1 of 1
Total Recording Time: 2.0 hours
Original Masters: 2 5" reel-to-reel analog audiotapes
Preservation Masters: 4 digital .wav files
Reference Copies: 2 audiotape cassettes; 4 digital .mp3 files

Interview 3: 27 January 1986

Box 1 of 1
Total Recording Time: 1.5 hours
Original Masters: 2 5" reel-to-reel analog audiotapes
Preservation Masters: 3 digital .wav files
Reference Copies: 2 audiotape cassettes; 3 digital .mp3 files

Interview 4: 12 September 1986

Box 1 of 1
Total Recording Time: 1.5 hours
Original Masters: 2 5" reel-to-reel analog audiotapes
Preservation Masters: 3 digital .wav files
Reference Copies: 2 audiotape cassettes; 3 digital .mp3 files