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Dorothy C. Miller papers, 1853-2013, bulk 1920-1996

Miller, Dorothy Canning, 1904-2003


Collection Information

Size: 34.6 linear feet

Summary: The papers of contemporary and folk art curator, historian, and consultant Dorothy C. Miller measure 34.6 linear feet and date from 1853-2013, with the bulk of the material dating from 1920 to 1996. The papers primarily concern Miller's art consulting work outside of her curatorial work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York city. Found are scattered biographical materials, extensive correspondence and subject files, and project files for her art consulting work for the Rockefeller family, Rockefeller University, Chase Manhattan Bank, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and other miscellaneous corporate and private clients. Her work as a trustee and committee member of various public and private boards and commissions is also represented here. Additionally, the papers contain Miller's research files on Edward Hicks and folk art, and a small number of files related to Miller's husband Holger Cahill and his work as Director of the Federal Art Project. There is important documentation of Miller's early curatorial work with Holger Cahill on the First Municipal Art Exhibition (1934) held at the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center. Artwork includes scattered sketches and drawings enclosed with correspondence and original Christmas cards sent to Miller by various artists. Photographs of Miller date from 1926-circa 1950.
Scattered biographical material mostly concerns Miller's education at Smith College and awards and honorary degrees that she received. Extensive correspondence and subject files document her professional and personal relationships with family, friends, colleagues, museums, art dealers, and artists, as well as her research interests. Individual files may contain a mix of correspondence with, as well as about, the person or subject, compiled research documents, printed materials, and scattered photographs. Files are found for Lewin Alcopley, Alfred Barr, Betty Parsons Gallery, Cahill family members, Lee Bontecou, James Byars, Holger Cahill, Alexander Calder, Christo, Chryssa, Calvert Coggeshall, John Canaday, Maryette Charlton, Stuart Davis, Jay DeFeo, Lorser Feitelson, Arshile Gorky, Peggy Guggenheim, Grace Hartigan, Will Horwitt, Jasper Johns, Julien Levy, Pierre Matisse, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, Isamu Noguchi, Georgia O'Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, Kay Sage, Charles Sheeler, Hedda Sterne, travel, Clyfford Still, William Scharf, among many others.
Detailed records of Miller's art consulting and advisory work for the Rockefeller family include correspondence with Nelson A. Rockefeller and David Rockefeller about building their personal collections of contemporary and folk art, meeting notes and minutes, research notes and writings, and printed materials. The largest group of records concerns the writing and publication of "The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection: Masterpieces of Modern Art." Miller's curatorial work for David Rockefeller and the Rockefeller University's Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Hall art collection is documented in Series 4 through curatorial files, correspondence, printed materials, photographs and slides, artists files, and design records.
Series 5 contains files relating to Miller's work as the first art consutant to the Chase Manhattan Bank and the building of the corporation's extensive collection of contemporary art. There is a draft of Miller's text for the bank's published catalog, "Art At Work: Chase Manhattan Bank Collection." A smaller set of records is found in Series 6 documenting Miller's work on the Art Committee of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, including files about selecting artwork for the World Trade Center during the early 1970s. Files concerning Miller's advisory work with additional public and private clients, boards, and commissions are arranged in Series 7 and 8 and concern the Amstar Corporation, Fidelity International Bank, First National Bank of Tampa, First National City Bank, Inmont Corporation, Pepsico, United Mutual Savings Bank, the Empire State Plaza Art Commission, the Hancock Shaker Village, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Mark Rothko Foundation, the Museum of American Folk Art, and the Smith College Museum of Art.
Miller's papers include a small group of files relating to the WPA Federal Art Project (FAP) created by her husband Holger Cahill when he was director of the FAP. A small series is devoted to Miller's work with Eleanore Price Mather researching and writing, "Edward Hicks: His Peaceable Kingdom and Other Paintings." A series of general research files contain miscellaneous research notes and photographs related to Miller's interests in early American art and folk art. Series 12 contains important documentation of Miller's early curatorial work with Holger Cahill on the First Municipal Art Exhibition (1934) held at the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center.
Works of art are primarily in the form of Christmas cards sent to Miller by various artists including Elise Asher, Lyonel Feininger, Bernard Karpel, and Irene Rice Pereira. A small group of photographs includes photographs of Miller from 1926-circa 1950 and a few photographs of others.
The addition includes biographical material; family papers; correspondence; professional files; art collection and client files; printed material; and photographic material. While a small number professional files are found here, the majority of material relates to her personal life, including correspondence with her husband Holger Cahill, and files pertaining to her personal art collection. Scattered correspondence, inventories, research, and notes created by curator and donor of the papers, Wendy Jeffers, are found throughout the collection. These materials date from the 1980s-2000s.

Biographical/Historical Note

Dorothy C. Miller (1904-2003) was a museum curator and art consultant from New York, New York.


The collection was donated by Dorothy C. Miller via Wendy Jeffers between 1986 and 1997, and Reid White, Executor of Miller's estate, in 2004. Two subsequent additions were donated by Wendy Jeffers in 2014 and 2015.

Related Materials

The Museum of Modern Art Achives holds Dorothy Miller's papers related to her curatorial work at the museum.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.