Archives of American Art: ACCESSING THE DORR BOTHWELL FILES (1900-2006)
“The mission of the Archives of American Art (AAA) 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.”
Dorr Bothwell’s papers, 10.6 linear feet, including journals, correspondence, photos, personal records, clippings, and artwork, are held in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. Download A Finding Aid to the Dorr Bothwell Papers
Many of Bothwell’s papers have been digitized, and are available online.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives’ Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
In 2005, the Archives of American Art’s West Coast office, previously located in the Huntington Library’s Virginia Steele Scott Gallery of American Art, was closed due to budget constraints. Fortunately, the microfilm of unrestricted material, including the Dorr Bothwell papers, 1921-2001, officially held by the Archives in Washington, D.C., remains at the Huntington Library Art Collections, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108; telephone 626-405-2100.
The Huntington Art Collections staff will continue to provide access to the unrestricted microfilm by appointment only. To schedule an appointment to view Dorr Bothwell’s archives, call 626-405-2234.
Before calling the Huntington Library, visit the website of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) and search their database for the reel numbers of the microfilm you wish to see.
HISTORICAL NOTE: West Coast arm of American Art archives to close / By Lynne Heffley / Los Angeles Times / print edition E-2 / March 30, 2005
The Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, a massive repository of papers, journals, images and recordings relating to art from the 18th century to the present, has announced that it will close its West Coast regional center at the Huntington Library in San Marino in May.
Representatives of both the Smithsonian and the Huntington said that the archival material – microfilm collections that include extensive documentation of the nation’s and California’s visual arts history – is the Huntington’s property and will remain there, accessible to the public.
The closing, said to be a cost-cutting measure, will eliminate two staff researcher positions, one of which is full time. However, regional collectors for the archives, independent of the Huntington, will continue to solicit donations of primary source material from California artists, scholars, curators and others for the Washington-based repository.
“We are definitely continuing the collecting very strongly,” said Los Angeles-based art historian Susan Ehrlich, the archives’ West Coast regional collector, “and I will continue in that capacity” for the Smithsonian.
Susan Turner-Lowe, the Huntington’s associate vice president for communications, said the Huntington would keep the microfilm archive it already had and would “keep it updated and continue to provide it for scholarly and artistic review and use.”
She added: “It’s not something that we consider onerous or inappropriate to maintain. It’s something that we would do as part of a dynamic collecting institution.”
Turner-Lowe confirmed that the microfilm archive will continue to be readily accessible to the public. Although other Huntington Library materials are “highly restricted,” the archive is a public resource, she said. “People simply make an appointment to see it. Our staff will maintain it as public. It’s always meant to be that way, from the Smithsonian’s perspective and from our perspective, so we intend to keep it that way.”
The Smithsonian’s decision to no longer staff the collection at the Huntington completes its move away from regional centers that the archives established in the 1970s. In the late 1990s, the New York center was downsized and reorganized; the then-remaining centers, in Boston and Detroit, were closed.
Linda St. Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Smithsonian, said of the change: “It’s budget, pure and simple. We want to make the same materials available to the public, but the staff was cut for budget reasons.”
The nonprofit Smithsonian Institution includes 18 museums and the National Zoo under its aegis; it receives two-thirds of its funding from the federal government, St. Thomas said.
Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, the archives’ full-time researcher whose Huntington-based job is being eliminated, said that source material sent to the Washington repository often took five to 20 years to return on microfilm. St. Thomas, speaking by phone from Washington, said that the process would continue but “at no cost” to the San Marino institution.
The Huntington purchased a complete set of the microfilm collection from the archives when it provided the organization with office space in 1984 in its just-constructed Virginia Steele Scott Gallery of American Art. The collection includes exhibition catalogs; museum, gallery and library records; New Deal-era Works Progress Administration material; and exhaustive personal information relating to individual artists.
St. Thomas said the archives would continue to “send them more material every year or a few times a year, whenever we send out microfilm from new collections. Gradually, over time, of course, all microfilm will go the way of the Internet, and all of that will be digitized.”
A nascent digitizing project, supported by a recent $3.6-million donation from the Chicago-based Terra Foundation for American Art, and already underway, “wasn’t the determining factor in the Huntington Library decision,” St. Thomas said. Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times