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James S. Plaut papers, [ca. 1929]-1980

Plaut, James S. (James Sachs), 1912-1996

Museum director, Arts administrator


Collection Information

Size: 1.4 Linear feet; 2.2 Linear feet, Addition; 4 Volumes, Reels 581 and 5139: Scrapbooks

Summary: Correspondence, business files, academic papers, photographs, clippings, sketchbook, sketches, and miscellaneous notes.
REEL 581: Selected items from 2 family scrapbooks, 1933-1943 and 1946-1956; including clippings, photographs, correspondence, invitations and awards. Most material pertains to Plaut's work as director of the ICA and advisor to the government of Israel. Also included are correspondence from Georges Rouault, Carl Milles, and Oskar Kokoschka; and 6 drawings by Waldo Peirce.
REEL 5139: Two family scrapbooks, 1956-1959 and 1960-1980, containing clippings, invitations, photographs and miscellaneous material from Plaut's work World's Fairs at Brussels, 1958, New York, 1964 and Japan, 1970. Also found are family snapshots of the Plaut's travels, their children and grandchildren and include 7 earlier photographs of Plaut and his parents, ca. 1906-1932, and one photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt, 1959.
UNMICROFILMED: Travel sketchbook of Rome; term papers, honors thesis, and sketches for an architectural history course; files relating to Plaut's positions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the ICA, the World Crafts Council, and other professional and personal concerns; correspondence, including letters from Eugene Berman, Carl Milles, Lincoln Kirstein, Paul Sachs and others; personal and work related photographs; lecture notes; slides from the World's Craft Fair Council, 1974; 2 untranscribed sound tape reels of an interview made by Plaut for Alfred Auerbach concerning the Brussels World's Fair 1958 and typed list of questions for the interview; and miscellaneous papers.
ADDITION: Resumes and obituaries; correspondence; the book, Waldo Peirce, by Margit Varga, 1941, with insertions of a caricature by Peirce, illustrated postcards, and a letter; photographs of Walter Gropius House, Lincoln, Mass. and 7 photographs of Plaut with Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Konrad Adenauer, Indira Gandhi, Leonard Bernstein, and Dwight David Eisenhower; scrapbook and slides pertaining to Plaut's work for the World's Fair, Brussels, 1958; writings and publications; publications of the ICA and the WCC; the book, The Overcoat, by Nikoli Gogel, presented to Plaut upon retirement from the WCC; publications by others on art and design; and a file on James and Mary Plaut's personal art collection, ca. 1935-1990s.

Biographical/Historical Note

Art administrator and museum director; Boston, Mass. Plaut was born to a wealthy family in Cincinnati, Ohio, graduated from HarvardCollege, and received an M.A. from Harvard University. His uncle was Paul Sachs, a connoisseur and influential museology professor at Harvard andsor. Plaut held curatorial positions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and became Director of Boston's Institute of Modern Art in 1939 (later the Institute of Contemporary Art or ICA) where he staged early exhibitions of contemporary design and European avant-garde paintings and sculpture until his resignation in 1956. Plaut was also involved in many international exhibitions and expositions, serving as Deputy U.S. Commissioner to the World's Fair in Brussels, 1958, and was Secretary General of the World Crafts Council, 1967-1976 and a consultant on industrial design in Israel.


Scrapbooks on reel 581 lent for microfilming by Plaut, 1973; his estate, via the executor Edward M. Condit, Jr., lent those on reel 5139 in 1996. Plaut donated the unmicrofilmed material in 1985 and 1992, and additional papers were received as a bequest in 1996 via the executor of his estate.

Language Note

English .

Location of Originals

  • Reel 581: Originals returned to James Plaut after microfilming.
  • Reel 5139: Originals in the possession of Plaut's children, Susan P. Reed and Thomas S. Plaut.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reel 581 & 5139 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

James S. Plaut papers, [ca. 1929]-1980. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.