Archives of American Art
$18 Million goal
This is a critical moment for the Archives of American Art. We are poised to receive significant collections from art makers and thinkers from the late 20th century and beyond. We seek funds to preserve these documents, including those produced digitally. Your investment in the Smithsonian Campaign will enable us to catalog and digitize these valuable collections to share on our website worldwide.
Your Archives of American Art is the preeminent institution documenting the history of art in America. It has a wealth of material from artists, collectors, dealers and scholars, all essential to understanding the nation’s full story.
Our growing collection of letters, sketchbooks, diaries, emails, photographs and home movies spans the 18th to the 21st centuries and continues to grow. It is the most comprehensive collection of its kind and includes the largest inventory of art-related oral histories in the world.
What will you find at the Archives? Visit our website and read George Catlin’s notebooks of his travels with the American Indians. See photos of the Monuments Men packing a stolen Michelangelo sculpture for return to its owners. And hear Chuck Close talk about the first set of paints he received as a child.
These and millions of other important personal histories bring richness and depth to our shared visual culture—and they would have been lost or remained hidden had we not taken action to gather and share them with the world.
Together, we will build and preserve the Archives’ collections, experience our treasures online with people worldwide and nurture tomorrow’s discoveries. Please read our case for support and match your passions with our gift opportunities.
- Kate HawDirector, Archives of American Art
- Wendy JeffersChair, Board of Trustees
Expanding Research and Discovery
Thousands visit our centers in New York and Washington, D.C., annually and our website receives more than 2 million visits a year. As our collection expands and more of it is available online, the potential for new discoveries and scholarship in American visual arts is exciting.
The Archives seeks to endow four key leadership positions: the director, national collector, New York collector and chief of reference services. Gifts to endow the director’s position will signify a commitment to quality leaders and innovation, strengthening the Archives’ prominence in the art world.
Endowment gifts for a national collector will enable us to pursue important collections around the country. A collector in New York is especially important since the city is the epicenter of the art world.
Researchers rely heavily on the Archives’ reference services. The chief of reference services is critical to understanding the full range of the Archives and helps advance scholarship in a digital age.
Oral History Endowment
Our collections include more than 2,200 interviews with artists, scholars, collectors and dealers. Their stories have shaped the art world—and there are new stories to tell every day. An investment to endow this program will allow us the flexibility to document significant narratives before they are lost and use new technologies to broaden access to this unique resource.
Preservation and Access
The Archives has collected prolifically since 1954. By investing in archival preservation and staying current with digitization and evolving technologies, the Archives’ resources will be strengthened and more information will be accessible. Our work will shape the future direction of scholarship in American art history with new collections and more information available online.
Archives of American Art
is raising $18 million of the Smithsonian Campaign’s overall $1.5 billion goal.
We seek an endowment of $5 million for the director’s position. We seek endowments of $2.5 million for the national collector position and for the New York collector position. We seek an endowment of $2.5 million for the chief of reference services.
Oral History Program Endowment
We seek an endowment of $5 million to capture the histories of significant figures in art and expand the accessibility of the collection.
Preservation and Access
We seek $4 million in this category, with gifts of $25,000 or more, to support the preservation and recovery of collections and improvements to web infrastructure.
For Art's Sake
For Art's Sake
During his lifetime, Newport Beach developer Gerald Buck avidly collected works by California artists, including such world-famous figures as Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Irwin and Helen Lundeberg. As a donor and trustee of the Archives of American Art, Buck also supported efforts to collect and preserve documents related to the history of visual art in California. He made gifts to fund the position of West Coast collector at the Archives for several years. After his death in 2013, a bequest from his estate established an endowment to support the collector’s position in perpetuity and provide funds for the Archives to enrich its records of American art in California.
The Terra Foundation for American Art
Sustained Support Transforms Access and Discoveries
The Terra Foundation for American Art’s two multi-million-dollar grants to the Archives of American Art have been transformative. The Foundation’s support of the processing and digitizing of collections has allowed the Archives to implement innovative approaches to digitization that now serve as a model for other institutions within the Smithsonian and around the world. The grants fund the website, Terra Foundation Center for Digital Collections, which features close to 600 finding aids and 2 million digital images. The foundation's generosity has greatly advanced discoveries in the collection and has formed a critical foundation for the development of new methods for digital art history.
Stewarding America's Treasures
The idea to preserve letters, diaries and other personal papers from American artists was hatched in Barbara Fleischman’s kitchen on a rainy Saturday in the early 1950s. Her late husband, Lawrence A. Fleischman, an art collector and businessman, cofounded the Archives of American Art in 1954. Since then, Barbara Fleischman has remained an advocate for the Archives, serving as president and chair of the board of trustees. When the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture was renovated in 2006 she ensured that the Archives would always have a gallery there to share its collections with the public. Further, she endowed an exhibition fund so that the Archives may delight visitors with shows of archival material ranging from diaries to address books and lists to snapshots. She also continues to sponsor the Archives annual benefit and the Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly Excellence in the Field of American Art History. “The Archives ensures immortality. Through its vast holdings of papers of artists, dealers, collectors and scholars, future generations will be able to learn about, gain insights and understand the world of art in America. I am proud to be part of preserving these treasures.”