These records document the Smithsonian career of Martin Williams, a noted jazz critic and essayist. Williams came to the Smithsonian Institution in 1971 as Director of the Jazz and American Culture Program in the Division of Performing Arts. In 1981 he was named Editor, Special Projects, at Smithsonian Institution Press (SIP), and from 1982 until 1989 he produced the Jazz Concert Series for the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program (RAP). Williams retired from SIP in 1991, but remained associated with the Institution as a researcher.
The records contain some administrative correspondence and memoranda documenting Williams' work with the Division of Performing Arts. While Williams was with the Division he became involved in numerous special projects in other Smithsonian bureaus and outside organizations, which are documented here in subject files. These projects included teaching jazz courses; advising in jazz-related film series and exhibitions; evaluating offers to donate jazz artifacts; serving on planning committees; writing and critiquing manuscripts for various publications, including Smithsonian magazine; consulting on book and recording projects; and collaborating in the production of jazz performances outside the Smithsonian. Williams continued to work on many of these special projects when he moved to SIP.
Williams' work at SIP is documented here in files created for successful and unsuccessful book and recording proposals or ideas, as well as special projects. It should be noted most documentation of projects that were successfully published are in SIP central files. Project files include correspondence with authors and reviewers; book proposals; copies of contracts; draft outlines and manuscripts; manuscript critiques and reviews; samples of book covers and advertising layouts; direct mail samples and survey responses; and project funding proposals. The records also include files of general correspondence between Williams and jazz enthusiasts, professional societies, interest groups, radio stations, magazine editors, and other critics; as well as a chronological file of outgoing correspondence dating from September 1987 through November 1988.
The records also document Williams' work on a proposed collection of essays, "The Smithsonian History of American Jazz," which was never published. These records include draft essays for the project, along with grants of permission to quote other work, correspondence with contributors, and memoranda.