Art and Artist Files

The Smithsonian Libraries and Archives' Art and Artist Files are an exceptionally valuable resource for art historical research done on emerging regional and local artists and often are the only obtainable sources of information on those artists. Spread over seven branches, the vertical files contain information on artists and art collectives, galleries, and museums from around the world, but primarily from North America and Africa. There are over 150,000 files that contain ephemera such as exhibition announcements, newspaper and magazine clippings, press releases, brochures, reviews, invitations to gallery shows, illustrations, résumés, artists' statements, small catalogs, and/or reproductions.

At this time, only the Artist and Institutional Files are indexed online. Though the old interface is no longer being maintained and does not index and display the names of galleries, museums and other organizations, it has features for browsing individual artists that you may find useful.

More about the Art and Artist FilesVertical Files materials from the Corcoran, now at AA/PG Library

American Art and Portrait Gallery Library

The Smithsonian American Art and Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library has a dynamic collection of over 150,000 files on Artists, Art Institutions, Collectors, and art-related Subjects.

  • The Artists Files, though primarily on American artists, also contain some European artists.
  • Art Institutions includes museums, galleries, art associations, clubs, leagues, societies, etc.
  • The Collectors Files include material on individual and corporate collections, as well as separate collections within a museum.
  • The Subject Files contain ephemeral material on many art-related subjects. A particularly strong section is the Federal Art Projects, which includes New Deal projects such as Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), the WPA’s Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP), the Section of Painting and Sculpture (the Section), and the Treasury Relief Art Project (TRAP).
  • The AA/PG Library also houses the Colonel Merl M. Moore, Jr. Files. These include Artists Files on early American artists, many copied from 19th century newspapers and magazines, Institution Files (e.g., National Academy of Design, Art Unions, Art Fairs), and Subject Files (e.g., Silhouette Artists, Passports, Immigration Records, etc.). The emphasis of the Merl M. Moore, Jr. Files is on art and artists of the 19th century.
  • Numerous notable individuals and institutions have donated their ephemera files to supplement the AA/PG Art and Artist Files collection, including the Allentown Art Museum, the Art Students League of New York, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art

All of the AA/PG Library’s files may be consulted on site and selections may be photocopied for a small fee.

Warren M. Robbins Library, National Museum of African Art

etching of a man's head all in blueThe Warren M. Robbins Library at the National Museum of African Art maintains a fast-growing collection of more than 4,500 files on African artists, galleries and museums. This unique repository features artists living and working in Africa, but also includes African artists living internationally. The files may contain articles, gallery brochures, exhibition announcements and invitations, price lists, newspaper clippings, resumes, press releases, and reviews.All of the African Art Library’s files may be consulted on site and selections may be photocopied for a small fee.

Anacostia Community Museum Library

The mission of the Anacostia Community Museum is to explore social issues impacting diverse populations of the DC metropolitan area to promote mutual understanding and strengthen community bonds. The art and artist vertical files at the Anacostia Library consist of biographical data, photographs, announcements, reviews, press releases, invitations, reproductions, resumes, and newspaper clippings. These files document the work of innovative American artists creating art, practicing the arts, or demonstrating an art, including architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, music, theatre, film, dance, and poetry.  

All of the Anacostia Library’s files may be consulted on site and selections may be photocopied for a small fee.

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library

More than 400 artist's files formerly housed at Cooper Hewitt National Design Library consist of biographical information, photographs, exhibition announcements, reviews, brochures, and clippings that document the work of 20th-century African American and Latino and Hispanic designers. The African American Design Archive created in 1991 and ceasing in 2003, chronicles innovative Black designers working in the United States in areas of architecture, interiors, graphics, industrial design, textiles, wallcoverings, ceramics, glass, metalwork, jewelry, and furniture. Similar subject areas are covered in the Latino/Hispanic Design Archive (begun in 1995 and ceasing in 2002), featuring designers of Hispanic and Latino origin working in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Central and South America. It is currently housed and overseen by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum staff, is currently not active and can be requested by appointment. 

All of the CHM Library’s files may be consulted on site and selections may be photocopied for a small fee.

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Library

The Freer's vertical file is arranged by LC subject heading and consists of various small-size publications, pamphlets, and newspaper clippings on Asian art and culture including a large number of pamphlets from national and international museums.

All of the FSG Library’s files may be consulted on site and selections may be photocopied for a small fee.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Library

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Library has more than 41 file drawers containing files for over 2,000 individual artists as well as on the museum's founder, trustees, and former directors. The contents of the files include gallery invitations, press releases and biographies, some newspaper clippings and other ephemeral material. The material has been collected since the opening of the museum in 1974. Artists represented in the museum collection or who have been in Hirshhorn Museum exhibitions have more substantial files.

All of the HMSG Library’s files may be consulted on site and selections may be photocopied for a small fee.

Vine Deloria, Jr. Library, National Museum of the American Indian

The Vine Deloria, Jr. Library of the National Museum of the American Indian has a growing collection of over 1400 files of Native American, First Nations, and Indigenous contemporary artists, performers, and writers who are primarily from the Western Hemisphere. The files contain general biographical material, small exhibition brochures, announcements, invitations, show reviews, newspaper and magazine clippings, internet pages relevant to the artist, and color and b/w reproductions. An equal number of files remain uncatalogued.

All of the Deloria Library’s files may be accessed on site, with availability to photocopy or scan.

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