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Mildred Baker papers, 1882-1997

Mildred Baker papers, 1882-1997

Baker, Mildred, 1905-1998

Arts administrator

Collection Information

Size: 2.7 linear feet

Summary: The papers of arts administrator Mildred Baker measure 2.7 linear feet and date from 1882 to 1997, with the bulk of the material dating from 1923 to 1997. Found within the papers are biographical materials; personal and professional correspondence; writings; files related to her work on the WPA Federal Art Project and other institutional art projects; printed material; photographs of Baker; and photographs and papers related to the work of her husband, Jacob Baker, who also administered programs for the WPA.

Biographical materials include birth and award certificates, curriculum vitae, divorce documents, an oral history transcript, and genealogical research and information on Baker's family, including her brother, the composer and bassoonist Adolph Weiss.

Correspondence is primarily with Baker's friends, business associates, researchers, and art institutions discussing personal relationships, research inquiries into the administration of the Federal Art Project, and loans and gifts of artwork to various institutions. The series includes Baker's responses to researcher requests regarding FAP exhibitions, programs, artists, and recollections of her fellow administrators.

Writings by Baker consist of reminiscences, 8 travel diaries, 3 essays, an exhibition catalog introduction, 4 lectures, and miscellaneous notes. Writings by others consist of 4 essays on contemporary art and art administration.

Federal Art Project files include correspondence; artist and exhibition lists; memoranda and general information; reports; speeches; information and photographs related to regional art centers and black artists; printed material; and miscellaneous material related to the Index of American Design, Southern California Art Project, and the Technical Services Laboratory.

General project files include information for 4 exhibitions, including the 1934 First Municipal Art and Salon of America Exhibitions; reports and speeches for the Newark Museum; information on the commissioning of the New Jersey Council on the Arts; and member information from the Woman Pays Club.

Printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, newsletters, press releases, and a commercial recording of Alice Tully Hall.

Photographs are of Mildred Baker, including photos during her tenure at the Federal Art Project and Newark Museum. There is also a photograph of fellow FAP administrator Audrey McMahon.

Materials related to Jacob Baker include interview recordings and transcripts; personal correspondence with friends and business associates; writings and speeches; information related to Baker's work for the United Federal Workers of America; printed materials; and photographs of Baker.

Biographical/Historical Note

Mildred Baker (1905-1998) was an arts administrator who worked in New York City, New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Washington, D.C.

Provenance

Mildred Baker donated her papers in several increments between 1971 and 1993. In 1999, the bulk of her papers were donated to the archives by Baker's estate executor, Patricia Haskell, some of which included materials that had been loaned for microfilming in 1963.

Related Materials

The Archives of American Art holds several collections related to Mildred Baker and the WPA Federal Art Project. There are two oral histories with Mildred Baker, one conducted by Harlan Phillips, September 21, 1963 and another by William Agee, July 22, 1965. There is also an oral history with Jacob Baker conducted by Harlan Phillips, September 25, 1963. Transcripts of the interviews conducted by Harlan Phillips are found within the collection. Collections related to the Federal Art Project include the Federal Art Project of the Work Projects Administration records and the Holger Cahill papers.

Location of Originals

  • Reel D110: Material returned to Baker after microfilming.; some items were subsequently returned with the 1999 addition.

A Finding Aid to the Mildred Baker Papers in the Archives of American Art
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Biographical/Historical note
Mildred Baker (1905-1998) was an arts administrator who worked in New York City, New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Washington, D.C.
Baker was born in Brooklyn, New York to composer and musician George Weiss and his wife Sophia Soennichsen, whose family were also musicians and writers. In 1925, while enrolled at the University of Rochester, she married the artist Ernest Holzhauer and together they moved to Europe for study and travel. In 1927, they returned to New York where Baker began working in administrative positions for the Van Diemen Galleries and the College Art Association. In 1934, she was hired by Holger Cahill to assist him in organizing Rockefeller Center's Salons of America Exhibition and First Municipal Art Exhibition. After the success of these shows, in 1935, Baker was hired as Cahill's assistant after he was selected to run the Federal Art Project for the Work Projects Administration in Washington, D.C.
While working for the Federal Art Project, Baker was appointed director of exhibitions and surveyed the work of over 100 art centers, organized over 500 traveling exhibitions, and managed the final allocation of artworks created for the FAP. In 1940, Baker divorced Mr. Holzhauer and married Jacob Baker, an economist and WPA administrator, union organizer, and a founder of the left-wing Vanguard Press, in 1947. After overseeing the closing of the Federal Art Project offices in Washington, Baker and her husband moved back to New York and became longtime residents of the Chelsea Hotel. Baker joined the staff of the Newark Museum in 1944, was promoted to assistant director in 1949, and to associate director in charge of exhibitions and programs from 1953 until her retirement in 1971.
In 1963, Baker was appointed by Governor Richard Hughes to the Commission to Study the Arts in New Jersey, and while serving as vice chairman, she oversaw the establishment of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. She was a member of the Cosmopolitan Club, Women's City Club, Woman Pays Club, and American Association of Museums. Baker died on December 9, 1998.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 8 series.
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1882, 1934-1990 (7 folders; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1937-1997 (0.4 linear feet, Box 1)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1940-1985 (17 folders; Box 1)
Series 4: Federal Art Project, WPA, circa 1934-1953 (0.8 linear feet, Box 1-2)
Series 5: Project Files, 1934-1991 (0.4 linear feet, Box 2)
Series 6: General Printed Material, 1923-1996 (11 folders; Box 2-4)
Series 7: Photographs, circa 1934-1992 (2 folders; Box 3)
Series 8: Jacob Baker, 1930-1975 (0.3 linear feet; Box 3-4)
Provenance
Mildred Baker donated her papers in several increments between 1971 and 1993. In 1999, the bulk of her papers were donated to the archives by Baker's estate executor, Patricia Haskell, some of which included materials that had been loaned for microfilming in 1963.
Location of Originals
  • Reel D110: Material returned to Baker after microfilming.; some items were subsequently returned with the 1999 addition.
Processing Information note
Portions of materials donated between 1971-1993 were microfilmed onto reel 1817. All previously filmed and unfilmed accessions were merged, fully processed, and described by Judy Ng in 2013 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

A small portion of this collection is available on 35 mm legacy microfilm reel 1817 at the Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the papers as described in this finding aid does not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm due to reprocessing. The Jacob Baker interview with Tex Goldchmidt was digitized for research access in 2009 and is available at the Archives of American Art offices. Researchers may view the original sound discs for the archival notations on them, but original discs are not available for playback due to fragility.

Restrictions on Access

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.

How to Cite This Collection

Mildred Baker papers, 1882-1997. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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