Chicago Art and Artists

Archival Resources Survey, Oral History Interviews and Web Resource

A project funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art

"The Chicagoan, 1928 Jan. 14", Cover depicts a woman in a fine winter coat walking her dog as snow is falling.

The Chicagoan, 1928 Jan. 14. John Henry Bradley Storrs papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Gertrude Abercrombie with her painting Slaughterhouse, ca. 1945

Nickolas Muray at Riverview Park, Chicago, 1917 / unidentified photographer. Nickolas Muray papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

About the Project

In January 2014, with funding from the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Archives of American Art launched a two-year initiative to improve access to primary sources documenting American art and design in Chicago collections. This project aligns with the Terra Foundation’s goals to foster innovative approaches to American art scholarship and with the Archives’ mission to collect, preserve and make available primary source material documenting the visual arts in the United States.

Archival Resources Survey

To improve access to primary sources documenting American art-related archival material in the Chicago area, the Archives will enlist the services of art historian Wendy Greenhouse to survey Chicago-area institutions for the purpose of updating its 1991 guide Art-Related Archival Materials in the Chicago Area, compiled by Betty Blum, which was the culmination of the Archives’ five-year Chicago Documentation Project, launched in 1985. The current project will not only revise, update, and expand its listings but will also encompass collections in newer public repositories.

Oral History Interviews

An integral component of the Project is the production over two years of interviews of Chicago artists and art dealers for the Archives’ oral history program, one of the oldest and most respected oral history collections in the country. The interviews will yield a richness of detail and a sense of character and inflection not available in written records, and gather a wealth of information on Chicago’s art history, adding to the Archives’ existing in-depth interviews in and about Chicago including with Katharine Kuh, Fitzhugh Dinkins, William McBride, Don Baum, Ruth Duckworth, Richard A. Florsheim, Susanne Ghez, Richard Howard Hunt, Richard Gray, Gladys Nilsson, Miyoko Ito, Anne Rorimer, Archibald Motley, and many others.

Website Access

In the Project’s second year, a Chicago Art and Artists online web platform will be developed to accommodate access to information compiled in the archival records survey; to the transcripts and audio excerpts of the relevant oral history interviews; and to the Archives’ existing holdings, many of them digitized. The Project-funded Digital Projects Librarian will have an important role in ensuring data and digital assets are structured appropriately to support browsing, searching, online presentation and data visualizations on topics, names and relationships, and geographic places. The resource will be designed to be extensible to accommodate future geographically based surveys, collection descriptions, oral history interviews, and linking with open source and open data initiatives, particularly in digital art history endeavors and among archives, museums, libraries, and other cultural heritage institutions.

For further information about this project, contact:

Karen Weiss, WeissK@si.edu