Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt papers, 1905-1987, bulk 1952-1987

Smithson, Robert, b. 1938 d. 1973
Painter, Sculptor
Active in Tx.

Holt, Nancy, b. 1938
Sculptor, Filmmaker, Installation artist
Active in Galisteo,N.M.

Collection size: 14.9 linear feet
8 rolled docs
Library: 76.0 linear feet

Collection Summary: The papers of sculptor, writer, and earthworks artist Robert Smithson and his wife, sculptor, filmmaker, and earthworks artist Nancy Holt measure 14.9 linear feet and date from 1905 to 1987, with the bulk of the material dating from 1952 to 1987. The papers consist of Smithson's biographical material; business and personal correspondence, much of it with artists; interview transcripts; extensive writings and project files; financial records; printed material; a scrapbook of clippings; holiday cards with original prints and sketches; photographic material; and artifacts. Also found are project files related to Nancy Holt's films "Pine Barrens" and "Suntunnels."

Biographical/Historical Note: Robert Smithson (1938-1973) was a pioneer of land and earthworks art, working primarily in New York City. Nancy Holt (1938-2014), Smithson's wife, was a noted sculptor and filmmaker and also worked as an earthworks artist. Smithson was also a noted sculptor, painter, writer, and lecturer .

The papers of Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt were donated by Nancy Holt in several accretions between 1986 and 2011.

Funding for the preservation and transfer of motion picture film provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

How to Use this Collection

  • Read the Finding Aid for this collection
  • Portions only of this collection are available on 35 mm microfilm reels 3832-3837 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. RESEARCHERS SHOULD NOTE: Microfilm does not include later additions to the papers nor does it reflect the current arrangement of the papers but is available for reference use only.
    The motion picture films Pine Barrens (release print and a portion of outtakes) and Suntunnels (work print) were transferred to videocassette for research access in 2003 and are available at the Archives of American Art offices.
  • Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
  • For more information on using the Archives’ resources, see the FAQ or Ask Us.

Also in the Archives

Related Materials

Motion picture films transferred to videocassette, non-archival library books, periodicals, and phonographs from Robert Smithson's personal library are currently stored offsite.
The Archives also holds several collections related to Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt, including an oral history interview with Robert Smithson conducted by Paul Cummings in 1972; an interview with Robert Smithson conducted by Tony Robbin in 1968; Robert Smithson letters to George B. Lester, 1960-1963; and oral history interviews with Nancy Holt conducted by Scott Gutterman in 1992 and Joyce Pomeroy Schwartz in 1993.