James J. Rorimer papers, 1923-1982, bulk 1943-1950

Rorimer, James J. (James Joseph), b. 1905 d. 1966
Art historian, Museum director
Active in New York, N.Y.

Collection size: 2.1 linear feet

Collection Summary: The papers of curator and museum director James J. Rorimer measure 2.1 linear feet and date from 1923 to 1966, with a few records from 1975 and 1982 and the bulk from 1943-1950. The papers include documentation of James J. Rorimer's World War II service in the Monuments, Fine Art and Archives Section of the U.S. Army and his activities protecting historic and cultural sites from bombing, and locating and recovering art work and cultural icons stolen by the Nazis. Found within the papers are scattered biographical materials and correspondence, writings include draft versions of Rorimer's book, "Safe-Keeping," or "Survival: The Salvage and Protection of Art in War," financial records, photographic materials including a photo album containing photographs of European art work and cultural sites where Rorimer worked, newsclippings and additional printed materials, and one scrapbook of clippings dating from World War II.

Biographical/Historical Note: James J. Rorimer (1905-1966) was a museum director and art historian from New York City. Rorimer was the motivating force in the development of the Cloisters. Educated at Harvard University and the Ecole Gory in Paris, his employment by the Metropolitan Museum of Art began in 1927 and continued until his death. He was curator of the Department of Medieval Art (1934-1955), director of the Cloisters (1949-1966) and director and trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1955-1966). During WWII, Rorimer served in the Monuments, Fine Art and Archives Section of the U.S. Army, recovering and protecting hidden and stolen art works (1943-1946).

The James J. Rorimer papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by his wife, Katherine Serrell Rorimer, in 2 installments in 1983.

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Related Materials

Among the holdings of the Archives of American is an oral history interview with Anne Rorimer, James' daughter, conducted in 2010 by the Archives of American Art. The Archives also holds the papers of several members of the World War II Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Section of the U.S. Army, including S. Lane Faison, Walker Hancock, Walter Horn, Thomas Carr Howe, George Stout, and Otto Wittman. as well as oral history interviews with some of them.
The official government records for James Rorimer's service during World War II in the MFAA Section of the U.S. Army are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration.