Archives of American Art

Archives of American Art
Archives of American Art
Archives of American Art Exhibit Opens
Archives of American Art Exhibit Opens
Garnett McCoy and Arthur Breton at AAA
Garnett McCoy and Arthur Breton at AAA
William Woolfenden, by Penland, Dane A, 1983, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 83-4691.
William Woolfenden

Lawrence A. Fleischman, ca. 1961-1965 The Archives of American Art was founded in Detroit, Michigan, as an independent research institution committed to encouraging and aiding scholarship in the visual arts in America from the 18th century to the present. It began in 1954, when Edgar P. Richardson, the director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and Lawrence Fleishman, a Detroit businessman and art collector, conceived of the idea for the organization and initiated a pilot project to microfilm art-related papers in Philadelphia. After the success of the pilot project, the Archives was incorporated in 1955 with a national board of trustees.

Smithsonian Art Commission Meeting, 1964 In 1960, the headquarters moved to New York City, but a branch office remained in Detroit. Other branch offices opened across the nation, and various field projects were initiated to collect the records of American artists, including a project in Rome, Italy, in 1963. During the 1960s, the archives conducted over four hundred interviews with artists, administrators, historians, and others involved with the federal government's art programs and the activities of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and early 1940s. It also received an extensive photograph collection documenting the artists and art work associated with the New York City Federal Art Project. During the 1960s, Edgar P. Richardson served on the Smithsonian Art Commission, establishing ties with the Institution.

Fine Art and Portrait Galleries, Archives Area In 1970, the Archives of American Art officially became a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution and its headquarters were moved to Washington, DC. In 1976, the archives opened a Midwest Regional Office at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Today the archives maintains research centers located in New York City and Washington, DC, as well as affiliated reference centers located at the Fine Arts Department of the Boston Public Library; the American Art Study Center of the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco; the Amon Carter Museum Library in Fort Worth, Texas; and the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Archives of American Art Today, the Archives of American Art holds the largest collection of primary source documentation on visual arts in America with some five thousand collections containing more than sixteen million  letters, diaries, and scrapbooks of artists, dealers, and collectors; manuscripts of critics and scholars; business and financial records of museums, galleries, schools, and associations; photographs of art world figures and events; sketches and sketchbooks; rare printed material; film, audio, and video recordings; and the largest collection of oral histories anywhere on the subject of art—all vital resources to anyone interested in American culture over the past two hundred years.

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Today in Smithsonian History

George Perkins Marsh

July 23, 1882

George Perkins Marsh dies. Marsh was a strong supporter of the Smithsonian in its early years, arguing for a great national library as part of the Institution. He served on the Board of Regents from 1847 to 1849, as a Congressman from Vermont. He encouraged Secretary Joseph Henry to hire his protégé, Spencer Fullerton Baird, as the first curator of the National Museum. His art collection was purchased for the National Museum in 1849, the first art collection acquired by the Smithsonian.More

Did you know...

That the Archives of American Art has an extensive collection of documents, photographs, and oral history interviews documenting the federal arts programs during the Great Depression?


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Board of the American Art Journal at an award luncheon held at the Plaza Hotel, New York City
James N. Rosenberg, Irwin Shaw and E.P. Richardson