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Archives of American Art (AAA)

Liza Kirwin, Interim Director

The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art (AAA) is the world’s largest and most important resource for the study of the visual arts in the United States. It serves scholars, students, journalists, biographers, and the interested public from its headquarters in Washington, DC, its research center in New York City, and through its vast online resources available worldwide.

Founded in 1954, the AAA fosters advanced research through gathering, preserving, and making available primary source material documenting more than two hundred 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 the peer-reviewed Archives of American Art Journal, the longest-running scholarly journal in the field of American art. Our vast holdings of 6,000+ 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 digitizing of archival collections, the AAA makes more than 3 million digital 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 broad chronological and geographic scope, and we actively seek the papers of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, 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, Gyorgy Kepes, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Louise Nevelson, Violet Oakley, Jackson Pollock, Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt, Alma Thomas, and Charles 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 www.aaa.si.edu, including summaries of all archival collections, more than 1,300 searchable finding aids, 1,500 oral history transcripts, and more than 250 collections that have been digitized in their entirety. Microfilm copies of many of the collections are also available.

In addition to its primary research center at the Victor Building 750 9th Street, NW (at H), Suite 2200, Washington, DC 20001 the AAA maintains a New York Research Center at 300 Park Avenue South, Suite 300, New York, New York 10010. (212) 399-5015.

Research Staff

Franco, Josh T., National collector. 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. Contact: FrancoJ@si.edu

Gillespie, Ben, Arlene and Robert Kogod Secretarial Scholar for Oral History. B.A., University of Georgia (2009); M.A., University of Chicago (2011); Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University (2019). Research specialties: Oral history, art and literature, global print culture in the 19th and 20th centuries, feminist and queer activist art, aesthetic theory. Contact: gillespieb@si.edu

Proctor, Jacob, New York collector. B.A., University of Colorado, Boulder; M.A., Harvard University. Research specialties: Contemporary art, Fluxus and intermedia practices of the 1960s and 1970s, experimental film. Contact: ProctorJ@si.edu

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, humanities publishing, pre-1945 American art and visual culture, genre painting, still life painting, art and labor. Contact: shapiroed@si.edu.

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