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Oral history interview with Thomas M. Messer, 1970 Sept. 22

Messer, Thomas M., 1920-2013

Museum director


Collection Information

Size: 35 Pages, Transcript

Format: Originally recorded on 1 sound tape reel. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hrs., 9 min.

Summary: An interview of Thomas M. Messer conducted 1970 Sept. 22, by Paul Cummings, for the Archives of American Art. Messer speaks of his childhood in Czechoslovakia; his early interest in art and music; coming to the United States; his education at Boston University; directing a museum, in Roswell, N.M., for three years; going to the American Federation of Arts and becoming director there; moving on to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston; the development of his interest in Latin American art and culture; becoming the director of the Guggenheim Museum; his philosophy on museum acquisitions; the current art market; what makes exhibitions successful or unsuccessful; and the future of museums.

Biographical/Historical Note

Thomas M. Messer (1919- ) is a museum director from New York, N.Y.


This interview is part of the Archives' 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 others.

Language Note

English .

How to Use This Collection

Transcript: 35mm microfilm reel 3417 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Transcript: Patrons must use microfilm copy.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Thomas M. Messer, 1970 Sept. 22. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.