Archives of American Art (AAA)

Research Center Website

Anne Helmreich, Director

The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art (AAA) is the world’s preeminent and most widely used resource for the study of the visual arts in the United States. It serves art world professionals, students and educators, family historians, and the interested public. The AAA’s main headquarters are in Washington, DC, where its collections are made publicly available via a reading room, and it also maintains a research center in New York City. Through an active digitization program, AAA resources are globally available online. 

Founded in 1954, the AAA fosters advanced research through gathering, preserving, and providing access to primary source material documenting more than two hundred and fifty years of our nation’s artists and art communities. Unequaled in historical depth and breadth, the AAA is a catalyst for scholarship through its collecting, exhibition, and publication programs, including our blog, podcast, and the peer-reviewed Archives of American Art Journal, the longest-running scholarly journal in the field of American art. Our vast holdings of 6,400+ collections consist of more than 30 million letters, diaries, scrapbooks, preliminary artworks, manuscripts, financial records, photographs, films, and audiovisual recordings of artists, dealers, collectors, critics, scholars, museums, galleries, associations, and other art-world actors. An international leader in the digitization of archival collections, the AAA makes more than 3.3 million images freely available online. The AAA’s oral history collection includes more than 2,500 audio interviews, the largest accumulation of in-depth, first-person accounts of the American art world.

From its founding, the AAA’s broad approach laid the groundwork for inclusive collecting. We aim to represent a wide chronological and geographic scope, and we actively seek the papers of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, persons with disabilities, women, and other historically underrepresented groups significant to the history of art in the US. Thematic areas of concentration include the lives of artists, research and writing about art, arts organizations, the art market, patronage, and art instruction and services. Some of the notable twentieth-century collections available at the AAA are the records of the American Federation of Arts, Leo Castelli Gallery, André Emmerich Gallery, Holly Solomon Gallery, Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, Macbeth Gallery, Downtown Gallery, Woman’s Building, Jacques Seligmann & Co., Cinque Gallery, and Betty Parsons Gallery; the Walt Kuhn papers, which include records of the 1913 Armory Show; the Edward Bruce and Holger Cahill papers, with documentation on New Deal art programs; and personal papers of artists Joseph Cornell, Jeff Donaldson, Arthur Dove, Sam Gilliam, Rockwell Kent, György Kepes, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Louise Nevelson, Violet Oakley, Jackson Pollock, Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt, Alma Thomas, and Charles W. White. The AAA has a strong concentration of the papers and research materials of critics and art historians including Dore Ashton, Gregory Battcock, Clement Greenberg, Lucy R. Lippard, Dorothy C. Miller, Linda Nochlin, Esther McCoy, and Tomás Ybarro-Frausto, among others.

Significant nineteenth-century material includes papers of James Carroll Beckwith, Charles Caffin, George Catlin, Kenyon Cox, Jervis McEntee, William Page, Hiram Powers, and the Weir family of artists, and extensive microfilmed collections of the correspondence of Mary Cassatt, Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Winslow Homer, John Kensett, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

The AAA’s holdings are described on its website at, including summaries of all archival collections, more than 1,900 searchable finding aids, more than 1,700 oral history transcripts, and more than 270 collections that have been digitized in their entirety. In addition to consulting collections in our reading room in Washington, DC, researchers may request digitization of manuscript materials or microfilm reels through our Digitization on Demand service. 

Research Staff

Franco, Josh T., Head of collecting. B.A. (2007) Southwestern University; M.A. (2010) Binghamton University, SUNY; Ph.D. (2016) Binghamton University, SUNY. Research specialties: archives, contemporary art, minimalism, American art of the 1960s, Chicana/o art, Latinx art, decolonial studies, feminisms, artists as researchers. Contact:

Gillespie, Ben, Oral historian B.A. (2009) University of Georgia; M.A. (2011) University of Chicago; Ph.D. (2019) Johns Hopkins University. Research specialties: oral history, art and literature, global print culture in the 19th and 20th centuries, feminist and queer activist art, aesthetic theory. Contact:

Proctor, Jacob, Gilbert and Ann Kinney New York Collector. B.A., University of Colorado, Boulder; M.A., Harvard University. Research specialties: international contemporary art, conceptual art; Fluxus and intermedia practices of the 1960s and 1970s, experimental film and video; art theory, criticism, and historiography. Contact:

Shapiro, Emily Dana, Managing editor, Archives of American Art Journal. B.A. (1995) Kenyon College; M.A. (2003), Ph.D. (2005) Stanford University. Research specialties: archives, arts and humanities publishing, pre-1945 American art and visual culture, genre painting, still life painting, art and labor. Contact:

Affiliated Research Staff

Helmreich, Anne, Director. B.A. (1985) Dickinson College; M.A. (1989) University of Pittsburgh; Ph.D. (1994) Northwestern University. Research specialties: digital humanities, art market studies, transatlantic exchange in the long nineteenth century, feminism, art and science. Contact:

Kinhart, Erin, Head of collections processing and digitization. B.A. (2003) University of Mary Washington; M.L.S (2006) University of Maryland. Research specialties: archival studies, digital archives, lives of artists, records of art galleries and dealers. Contact:


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