A Message from the Interim Director

By the Archives

March 20, 2020

Photograph of the Archives' staff in our storage room

Though our offices are closed, we're always here for you online. Our staff is available to respond to your questions at aaaemref@si.edu. More than ever, during this uncertain time, we hope our collections serve as a source of endless discovery and inspiration.

It is easy for you to investigate from home the lives of American artists, dealers, collectors, critics, and other art world figures through their personal letters, diaries, sketchbooks, scrapbooks, photo albums, and in-depth interviews. We invite you to join us online to learn more about how art has shaped our nation’s history ​and the diversity of the American experience.

Take advantage of our online resources. Browse our more than three million digitized items by searching the collection. Dig into our online exhibitions about the heroic Monuments Men and how networks form through Mail Art, and join us on a virtual road trip through documents from the Archives in Off the Beaten Track.

Explore our blog posts and listen to interview excerpts from the Archives' renowned oral history program. Discover connections across the Smithsonian's collections and access resources for parents and children through the Smithsonian Learning Lab. We will continue to keep you updated via email and through our social media channels.

Thank you for being a part of the Archives of American Art community.

Liza Kirwin, Interim Director

Explore Online Resources:

During World War II, an unlikely team of soldiers was charged with identifying and protecting European cultural sites, monuments, and buildings from Allied bombing. Officially named the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Section, this U.S. Arm
Mail art (alternatively called “correspondence art” or “postal art”) emerged as a form of artistic practice in which an international network of participants use the mail to make art and share it with others regarding culture and communications, creatively sidestepping the art market and, in many instances, eluding government censors.
Join us on a road trip through the Archives of American Art. The photographs, sketches, diaries, correspondence, and video recordings on view reveal how artists have shaped and are shaped by their surroundings, from the 1830s to the 2000s. These materials lead us off the beaten track, offering unexpected insight into local and regional histories as well as personal stories of exploration, immigration, and migration. Together, documents from all 50 states and the District of Columbia represent the diversity and depth of art in the United States.