The mission of the Archives of American Art is to illuminate scholarship of the history of art in America through collecting, preserving, and making available for study the documentation of this country's rich artistic legacy. Containing nearly 5,000 individual manuscript collections totaling over 16,000 linear and circa 4,000 oral histories, Archives is the world’s largest and most widely used resource on the history of art in America.
The Archives' Research Collections — spanning more than 200 years — include letters, diaries, and scrapbooks of artists, dealers, and collectors; manuscripts of critics and scholars; business and financial records of museums, galleries, and associations; photographs; works of art on paper; and oral history interviews. New collections and oral history interviews are added each year, increasing the richness and depth of the Archives' holdings; for a complete list see Collections and Interviews A-Z.
The Archives publishes the Archives of American Art Journal and curates exhibitions from its collections in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery in the Smithsonian’s Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture and its New York Research Center. Numerous internship, volunteer, and fellowship Opportunities are also available.
Researchers may access the collections by appointment at the Archives’ Research Centers in Washington, DC. Some original collections are also available in the Archives’ New York Research Center. Microfilm copies of many collections are available in both research centers, and at affiliated research centers nationwide, or through interlibrary loan. Researcher may also request reference services through the Ask Us form.
A growing number of entire collections have been digitized and are also available on the Archives' Web site as Collections Online. They can be viewed in the exact order and arrangement as the original files, and their descriptions searched by keyword.
Highlights: Among the over five thousand collections are the records of the 1913 Armory Show, the first major exhibition of modern art held in the United States and the records of major American art galleries, such as Macbeth, Downtown, and Betty Parsons. Extensive collections of personal papers include those of Romare Bearden, Rockwell Kent, Reginald Marsh, Elizabeth McCausland, and Jackson Pollock.