National Museum of American Art. Office of Program Support Search this
146.04 cu. ft. (5 record storage boxes) (280 document boxes) (1 5x8 box) (1 film box) (2 oversize folders)
Motion pictures (visual works)
The records of the Office of Program Support, National Museum of American Art, 1965-1981, with related records from 1947, were received in the Archives from 1981 through
The large volume and irregular arrangement of the records of the Office is reflected in this finding aid. Series 1 through 14, the administrative records, are described
on the folder level. Series 15 and 16, the exhibition files that form the bulk of the records, are described on the box level. Series 17 and 18, the oversize and audio-visual
records, are described on the item level.
The Office arranged exhibitions by project number. The unnumbered, early exhibitions which appear in Series 15 are not well-documented, and project files contain only scraps
of material, which do not paint a full portrait of the exhibition. Materials in these early files appear arbitrary; sometimes a catalog exists, sometimes some budget material,
sometimes only correspondence.
In the mid-1960s, when the numbering system was more firmly established, the files increased in volume. The files of the numbered exhibitions which are contained in Series
16 document all aspects of the major exhibitions, though not in an easily recognized, regular order. Most exhibition files contain correspondence, but later files also include
material regarding budget issues (both proposals and purchases); loans; shipping and packing; installation and instructions; publicity; and catalog creation (and finished
catalogs as well). These files also often reflect the specific planning and equipment requirements of each exhibition.
The box-level format of the finding aid indicates the kinds of documentation that can be found in each box of records for particular exhibitions, since the files for single
exhibitions often fill more than one box. Of course, folder titles are the most accurate guides to the contents of a box; however, the Office did not use standard folder titles
for basic documentation that recurred for most exhibitions. Therefore, researchers consulting only the "Finances" folder would perhaps miss important records in folders entitled
"Budget" or "Bills." Thus the box level description offers the researcher a general description of the material within, with more precise information found on the folder headings.
Please note that only the English words for "biennial" and "triennial" have been used in the finding aid, and the documents themselves should be consulted for the proper foreign-language
titles of these recurring exhibitions.
For this reason, researchers should search all boxes pertaining to a particular exhibition, rather than a few folders alone; similar material may arise in folders at both
the beginning and the end of an exhibition. For a brief overview, researchers should request the folders called "exhibition notebooks" or "final report notebooks," which usually
pull together much of the important material from all the folders. Useful material can also often be found in "Lois Bingham's file" for an exhibition.
Visual material exists throughout the Exhibition Series, yet again, the volume increases from the midpoint on. Some exhibition files contain only photographs of exhibited
works, while others contain images of exhibited works, of installations, of opening receptions, of artists, of artists at work, of packing, and of various other scenes for
panel exhibits. Later exhibitions often involved multimedia displays (slide, film, music shows; technological advances; lectures; panel exhibits) and the files reflect the
planning and outcome of these more involved, more visual exhibitions.
The historic mission and activities of the Office of Program Support date back to the mid-1940s, when the Department of State administered United States exhibition
activities overseas. In 1954 this activity was transferred to the United States Information Agency (USIA). The USIA organized and circulated art exhibitions abroad and, in
the years immediately preceding 1965, supported American participation in international art shows.
In November 1965, the Smithsonian Institution and the USIA agreed that the Smithsonian would assume the responsibility for an international exchange program of art exhibitions;
support American entries in international art exhibitions, in particular, the Venice and Sao Paulo biennials; and service the United States Information Services' field requests,
when possible. The USIA would continue to be responsible for national exhibitions presented in the Soviet Union and East European countries.
The International Art Program (IAP), the office responsible for the USIA activities in this area, was transferred to the control of the National Collection of Fine Arts
(NCFA). Three program employees were detailed to NCFA. The USIA agreed to continue providing financial assistance for projects begun before the program transfer had been made.
In July 1966, IAP personnel, Lois A. Bingham, Chief, Margaret P. Cogswell, Deputy Chief, and William M. Dunn, Exhibits Officer, became permanent NCFA staff members.
Between 1965 and 1970, most of the exhibition budget for IAP was directed to the large international shows, most notably the biennials. After the threatened boycott of
American artists at the Venice biennial in 1970, the Smithsonian began considering its role in the international art shows, not wanting to get involved in politics and the
consequences of such activity in its relations with artists. At the same time, the USIA no longer felt that the international shows were the most useful means of reaching
audiences abroad. As a result, both agreed that IAP would provide smaller exhibitions for USIA use - a minimum of six a year. NCFA, however, continued to assist American entries
in the larger international shows by encouraging private institutions to provide support for them.
In 1973, IAP became the Office of Exhibitions Abroad (OEA), reflecting the changes in its mission. Lois Bingham continued as Chief of OEA.
By 1976-1977, OEA's funding and budgetary support for packaging shows for USIA was waning. In 1977, the Office title was changed to the Office of Program Support, with
Bingham as Chief of the Office. The program of the new office became more restrictive, working with NCFA staff in assisting and developing NCFA projects. For other types of
exhibitions, the Office was to seek outside financial support. In fiscal year 1980, Bingham became Coordinator of Program Support; and by the end of 1981 the Office ceased
These records provide detailed documentation on the administrative as well as exhibition activities carried out by USIA, IAP, and OEA from 1954 through 1981. Exhibition
records include correspondence with embassies, working committees, organizers, artists; fund-raising letters; loan agreements; condition reports; exhibition reports and catalogs;
press releases and newspaper clippings; photographs of artwork, installations, and publicity material (ambassadors, artists, and local committees), as well as biographies
of artists involved with the shows. In addition, there are color slides, tape recordings, and film covering some of the exhibitions. Well documented are the Sao Paulo biennial
and the Venice biennial dating from 1955 and 1964, respectively.
Administrative records include correspondence and memoranda, histories of the programs, USIA and Smithsonian agreements, and information on the office reorganizations.
There is also information on program planning, budgetary material, travel policy, and trips taken by the staff. In addition, there are records on exhibitions sponsored by
the Museum of Modern Art and the USIA, resource files broken down by collections and collectors, and professional art organizations, staff meeting notes, and personal diaries.