Nearly a decade has passed since the archives of the Corcoran Gallery and the Corcoran College of Art and Designnow the Corcoran School of the Arts and Designwere accessible to researchers. In June, nearly 2,000 boxes of historical documents and hundreds of thousands of architectural drawings, exhibition posters, photographs and oversized ledgers were donated to the George Washington University
from the Corcoran board of trustees.
The Corcoran archives document the life and vitality of one of D.C.s oldest cultural heritage institutions and provides nearly 150 years of insight into the history of American art museums and art education, from its founding in 1869 through 2014 when the historic agreements between the Corcoran, GW and the National Gallery of Art were finalized. The archives will be available to the public at the Special Collections Research Center in GWs Gelman Library.
Weve been excited about receiving the archives since the merger was first announced. The Corcoran is an iconic organization with a rich history and these archives tell the story of not only the arts, but of the city of Washington, D.C., said Geneva Henry, dean of libraries and academic innovation at GW. Access to them is highly anticipated. We have been fielding research requests and the availability of the archives will now provide fascinating insight for researchers into the Corcoran.
Inside the Corcoran Archives
Some highlights from the hundreds of thousands of materials in these archives include journals from William MacLeod, the Corcoran Gallerys first curator from 1873 to 1889, summarizing each days activities and his opinion of works offered to or purchased by the gallery; 17 letterpress volumes of outgoing correspondence concerning Corcoran activities (1876-1908); exhibition posters, promotional materials from the Corcoran College; and architectural drawings by Ernest Flagg of the historic Beaux-Arts building. Also included are plans for the proposed expansion designed by Frank Gehry (which did not materialize); photographs of events, staff, visitors and exhibitions dating from the 1880s to the 2000s; and documents related to the controversial canceled Mapplethorpe exhibition.
"Getting the Corcoran archives is significant to the Corcoran's evolution, said Sanjit Sethi, director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. "These archives are part of our living history. In these boxes lies a history that can be activated by students, faculty, researchers and community members. People who take the time to decipher, analyze and interpret this information can both gain valuable insight into a remarkable institution and help shape the Corcoran's future.
Due to lack of funding, the Corcoran archives were closed and sent to long-term storage in 2007. They have been unavailable to researchers since then. With the transfer to GW, the Corcorans history will be open to all interested researchers. In 2014, the Corcorans library collection also moved to GW. The Corcorans library collection brought more than 40,000 art and design books to GW.