Call for Essay Proposals: Special Issue of the Archives of American Art Journal on Oral Archives

By the Archives
January 29, 2021

The Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art has one of the oldest and most respected oral history collections in the United States. Since 1958, its Oral History Program has preserved the distinct voices and human memory of the American art world in more than 2,400 interviews. These unique exchanges between interviewers and narrators chronicle the diversity of the United States art scene, augmenting and refining our perception of individual artists, dealers, critics, and curators and their social and professional worlds. Major oral history initiatives undertaken by the Archives include The New Deal and the Arts (1963–65), Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic (2016–18), and most recently the Pandemic Oral History Project (2020). Additionally, collections across the Archives contain over 10,000 oral recordings featuring the voices of artists and art historians. You can explore all of the Archives’ research collections online.

The Archives of American Art Journal is planning a special issue showcasing new approaches to oral archives. We invite proposals for manuscripts that ask: What distinguishes oral evidence from other kinds of primary sources? What critical tools do scholars need to interpret that kind of evidence in innovative ways? How have scholars relied on oral narratives to construct histories of American art, and what have been the benefits or limitations of doing so? How can those narratives serve as the foundation for alternative histories and expand archives to represent traditionally marginalized voices? Essays selected for publication in the journal will explicitly link one or more of these questions to the oral history collections or oral recordings housed at the Archives of American Art. Authors must identify the specific collection(s) that will inform their research. Please include the following in a single MS Word document and email it to Tanya Sheehan, executive editor of the Archives of American Art Journal,, by September 1, 2021:

  • Author name and contact information
  • Proposed manuscript title and abstract of no more than 250 words

The journal’s editorial team will review the proposals and then invite selected authors to prepare a manuscript of 5,000–7,000 words (including endnotes) for double-blind peer review. Complete manuscripts for review will be due by February 1, 2022. Essays must be previously unpublished and not under consideration for publication elsewhere.

The Archives of American Art Journal is the longest-running scholarly journal devoted to the history of American art. It aims to showcase new approaches to and out-of-the-box thinking about primary sources. Distributed by the University of Chicago Press, the journal contains both peer-reviewed research and commissioned articles that engage with the vast holdings of the Archives. Information on manuscript submissions and review criteria is available on the journal’s webpage.