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Oral history interview with Jim Sanborn, 2009 July 14-16

Sanborn, Jim, 1945-



Collection Information

Size: 1 Item, data compact disc (6 hr., 32 min.) 4 tracks, digital, WMA files; 108 Pages, Transcript

Format: Originally recorded on 1 sound disc. Reformatted in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 6 hr., 30 min.

Summary: An interview of Jim Sanborn conducted 2009 July 14-16, by Avis Berman, for the Archives of American Art's U.S. General Services Administration, Design Excellence and the Arts oral history project, at Sanborn's home, in Washington, D.C.
Sanborn speaks of his father, Herbert James Sanborn, who worked at the Library of Congress and was also an artist; his education, including attending Randolph-Macon College, taking a course in archaeology at Oxford University, and attending the Pratt Institute; his interest in medieval history and art; how he began to create public art; the difference between his public art and his gallery work; his residency at Glen Echo Park, VA; working on General Services Administration (GSA) commissions; the commissioning, conceptualization, and creation process behind his artwork Kryptos (1990) at CIA headquarters; the media sensation surrounding Kryptos; the importance of secrecy in his work; the process of engineering waves for Coastline (1993) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric headquarters; his recreation of a particle generator for the exhibition Atomic Time (2003); incorporating science and technology into his work; and how his work changed after 9/11. Sanborn also recalls Jack and Nancy Witt, Nancy Holt, Mark di Suvero, Raya Bodnarchuk, Isamu Noguchi, Gene Davis, Max Protetch, Walter Hopps, Yuri Schwebler, Ned Rifkin, Gordon Hanes, and others.

Biographical/Historical Note

Jim Sanborn (1945- ) is a sculptor in Washington, D.C. Sanborn is known for his use of stone and cryptography. Full name is Herbert James Sanborn, Jr.


This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.

Language Note

English .


Funding for this interview was provided by the U.S. General Services Administration, Design Excellence and the Arts. Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.

How to Use This Collection

Transcript is available on the Archives of American Art's website.

The transcript and recording are open for research. Contact Reference Services for more information.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Jim Sanborn, 2009 July 14-16. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.