The collection is arranged into eight primary series based primarily on administrative units or program areas. Several of the series are further subdivided into subseries. While processing, it became clear that the two filing systems were redundant and overlapped in both subject area and type of material. Most of these files were subsequently merged into the now broader Alphabetical Files or into separate series. Oversized material may be found at the end of the collection arranged in a separate series. In most cases, files related to one another by subseries or subject areas (in the case of the Alphabetical Files) or by individual name (in the case of officers and staff files) are arranged in chronological order. The entire subseries of Alphabetical Files in Series 2 is arranged by subject heading, as assigned by the AFA, or individual name. The Alphabetical Files originally formed two broad filing systems as established by the AFA: one for general correspondence arranged by subject; and one for director's and other staff correspondence, also arranged by subject. Series 1: Board of Trustees, circa 1895-1968 (Boxes 1-3) Series 2: Administrative Records, 1910-1966 (Boxes 4-8) Series 3: Special Programs, 1950-1967 (Boxes 9-13) Series 4: Annual Conventions, 1912-1963 (Boxes 14-16) Series 5: Exhibition Files, 1934-1969 (Boxes 17-78) Series 6: Printed Material, 1990-1993 (Box 78) Series 7: Miscellaneous Files, 1926-1962, undated (Box 79) Series 8: Oversized Materials, 1890, undated (Boxes 80-85)
Access Note / Rights:
Use requires an appointment.
The records of the American Federation of Arts (AFA) provide researchers with a complete set of documentation focusing on the founding and history of the organization from its inception through the 1960s. The collection measures 79.8 linear feet, and dates from 1895 through 1993, although the bulk of the material falls between 1909 and 1969. Valuable for its coverage of twentieth-century American art history, the collection also provides researchers with fairly comprehensive documentation of the many exhibitions and programs supported and implemented by the AFA to promote and study contemporary American art, both nationally and abroad.
American Federation of Arts records, 1895-1993, bulk 1909-1969. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Portions of the collection are available on 35 mm microfilm reels 376 and 1780 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the material described in the container inventory does not reflect the arrangement of the collection on microfilm.
The American Federation of Arts records are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Founded in 1909 by Elihu Root, the American Federation of Arts (AFA) exists today as a national nonprofit museum service organization striving to unite American art institutions, collectors, artists, and museums. Elihu Root, then secretary of state in the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, spoke of his idea at the first meeting of the AFA held in New York at the National Academy of Arts. He envisioned an organization that would promote American art most often seen only by the elite in the major cities of the East and upper Midwest by sending "exhibitions of original works of art on tour through the hinterlands across the United States."
The records of the American Federation of Arts (AFA) were donated to the Archives of American Art (AAA) over a thirteen-year period, with the bulk of the material arriving between 1964 and 1966. In 1979, Preston Bolton donated his letters and those from John de Menil, Ann Drevet, Lee Malone, and others regarding planning for the 1957 AFA annual convention held in Houston, Texas; convention committee minutes from 1956; and AFA newsletters. This material, as well as a 1979 gift from Louise Ferrari of transcripts from a panel discussion from the 1957 AFA convention in Houston, was microfilmed on AAA Reel 1780. All material previously microfilmed on Reel 1780 has been fully integrated into the collection and arranged within proper series and subseries. The provenance of the 1990-1993 printed material is unknown.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001