83.1 cu. ft. (80 record storage boxes) (4 12x17 boxes) (2 16x20 boxes)
These papers document the life and work of Warren M. Robbins, covering a wide swath of his life, from his early career in the Foreign Service to his work in cross cultural
communications and African art. A prolific writer, Robbins correspondence with such people as Maya Angelou, Ernie Barnes, Saul Bellow, Eliot Elisofon, Otto Fried, Buckminster
Fuller, Francoise Gilot, Chaim Gross, S. I. Hayakawa, Harry Holtzman, Frances Humphrey Howard, Herbert H. Humphrey, Ben Shahn, and Margaret Mead document the close relationships
he had with a wide range of people as well as reveal his personality and character.
The papers also include Robbins subject files and reveal his interests in African art, Piet Mondrian, and semantics among other things. Also included are records related
to the creation and administration of the Museum of African Art, the work it took to get it included as part of the Smithsonian, its transfer, and the difficulties and conflicts
Robbins experienced as a result. The records provide extensive coverage of the work involved in keeping the MAA a vibrant center of education, as well as documents the acquisition
of collection material and the production of exhibitions.
The papers also contain materials related to publications, including Robbins' African Art in American Collections, both the 1966 and 1989 editions. Also included
are materials related to his writings, lectures, and introductions of which he was known for. Of interest are the materials prepared by Roulhac Toledano in preparation for
an unpublished work: Before and After the Smithsonian, The Legacy of Warren Robbins, Founder, National Museum of African Art: A Biography of Letters and Essays.
Other highlights include audio recordings from the dedication of the Museum of African Art on September 21, 1966, as well as recordings of lectures and interviews; records
regarding the return of the Afo-A-Kom to the Kom people of Cameroon; records related to the acquisition of the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives; transcripts of oral history
interviews; and the numerous awards and honors received by Robbins including the Joseph Henry Medal.
Materials include correspondence, memoranda, invitations, publications, articles, reports, images, sound recordings, transcripts, awards, clippings, newsletters, brochures,
scrapbooks, pamphlets, mailings, maps, and floor plans. Some materials are in German and French.
A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, BA, 1945 and the University of Michigan, MA, 1949, Warren Murray Robbins started his career as a secondary school teacher.
He later served in the United States Foreign Service, holding a variety of educational and curatorial posts in Germany and Austria. After returning to the United States, Robbins
established the Center for Cross Cultural Communication (CCCC) in 1962 to serve as an educational institute integrating, popularizing and utilizing the insights and perspectives
of the social sciences and the arts to foster international and interracial understanding as well as communication between the academic world and a broader public audience.
Once of first major projects of the CCCC was the creation in 1964 of the Museum of African Art (MAA). The museum was the extension of an interest in African art that Robbins
developed while in Europe. The museum was originally located in the Washington, DC residence of Frederick Douglass and became part of the Smithsonian Institution in1979 and
was later renamed the National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) in 1981.
During the 15 years that the MAA was in operation, the CCCC operated under the Museum's name. Following the Museum's inclusion as part of the Smithsonian it reverted back
to its original corporate name with the inclusion of Robbins' name in the title to become the Robbins Center for Cross-Cultural Communication.
From 1964 to 1982, Robbins was the Director of the MAA, later becoming the Founding Director Emeritus and Senior Scholar from 1982-1995. In June of 1995, the Smithsonian
eliminated Robbins position as Founding Director Emeritus/Senior Scholar because of budgetary reasons. Subsequently Robbins sued the Smithsonian, but ultimately lost and was
not able to be reinstated.
After leaving the Smithsonian, Robbins continued his work at the Robbins Center for Cross Cultural Communications to apply the perspectives and insights of the social sciences
and the arts in public education with particular emphasis on interracial understanding. Robbins passed away on December 4, 2008.
September 4, 1923 -- Born - Worcester, Massachusetts
1928-1937 -- Midland Street Elementary School
1938-1941 -- Classical High School
1941-1945 -- University of New Hampshire, Durham - BA English
1945-1949 -- University of Michigan, Ann Arbor - MA History
August 1949-September 1950 -- Teacher, High School, Department of the Army, Dependent School System - Bremerhaven, Germany
September-December 1950 -- Teacher, High School, Department of the Army, Dependent School System - Nurnberg, Germany
January 1951-November 1951 -- Visiting Expert, Public Affairs Program, Department of State - Hicog, Germany
1951-1955 -- Education Officer, American Embassy, Department of State -Vienna, Austria
1955-1957 -- Cultural Affairs Officer, American Consulate General, United States Information Agency - Stuttgart, Germany
1957-1958 -- Public Affairs Officer, American Consulate General, United States Information Agency - Stuttgart, Germany
1958-1960 -- Deputy Chief, Cultural Centers and Program Unit, American Embassy - Bonn, Germany
1960-1961 -- Staff, U. S. Advisory Commission on Educational and Cultural Relations
1961-1962 -- Assistant to Deputy Assistant of State for Educational and Cultural Relations, Department of State
1962-1963 -- Course Chairman, Foreign Service Institute, Department of State
1962-2010 -- Founder and Director, Center for Cross Cultural Communications (CCCC) and later the Robbins Center for Cross Cultural Communications
1964 -- Museum of African Art founded as a part of CCCC
1964-1982 -- Founder and Director, Museum of African Art/National Museum of African Art
1966 -- Establishment of the Frederick Douglass Institute for Intercultural Understanding
1978 -- President Carter signs bill authorizing the transfer of MAA to the Smithsonian
1979, August 13 -- Museum of African Art officially becomes part of the Smithsonian
1981 -- Museum of African Art changed names to the National Museum of African Art
1982 -- Sabbatical to Africa
1982-1995 -- Founding Director Emeritus and Senior Scholar, National Museum of African Art
1987 -- National Museum of African Art building opens in the Quadrangle on the National Mall
1995, June -- Terminated from National Museum of African Art
2008, December 4 -- Warren M. Robbins passes away
Series 9 - Smithsonian Conflict, 1982-2002 restricted for 5 years from the date of transfer, until Jan-01-2016; Transferring office; 09/13/2010 Deed of Gift; Contact reference staff for details.
African Art in American Collections (Monograph) 1966. Search this
African Art in American Collections (Monograph) 1989. Search this