Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 312
Creators:
National Collection of Fine Arts. Office of the Director
Dates:
1912-1965
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
28.5 cu. ft. (57 document boxes)
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Introduction
Introduction
Record Unit 312 was transferred from the National Museum of American Art (NMAA) Archives to the Smithsonian Institution Archives in October 1984. The NMAA Archives, which was created in January 1975, and located in the Fine Arts and Portrait Gallery Building, came under the daily administration of the NMAA, with technical supervision and assistance provided by the Smithsonian Institution Archives. The NMAA Archives was discontinued in October 1984.

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
These records consist of administrative memoranda, budget, travel, and personnel files; correspondence with art collectors and institutions, mostly inquiries on the identification and preservation of works of art, including photographs; lectures and newspaper articles written mostly by Beggs and Rowland Lyon, NCFA's Curator; information on restoration or preservation methods; and information on the proposed Smithsonian Gallery of Art, and the Eliel Saarinen design, 1939. Also included are files culled from previous NCFA directors, which includes a script by William Henry Holmes (read on radio by Austin H. Clark, 1923) and administrative memoranda, 1908-1918.
Smithsonian Art Commission materials include minutes of meetings, NCFA annual reports, and lists of members, 1948-1964; and correspondence with Lloyd Goodrich and with caterers.
Photographic materials consist of black-and-white prints and negatives of NCFA exhibit halls; objects in or formerly in NCFA's collections, 1950-1956; the Cultural Anthropology exhibit, 1950; NGA exhibit halls; and the SI building's Upper Main Hall.
Special exhibition files concern the exhibitions of individual, local, and international works of art held monthly at the NCFA between 1948 and 1965. Included are correspondence and memoranda, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and photographs. The 1962 Art and Archaeology of Vietnam exhibit is well-documented in this collection.

Historical Note
Historical Note
The charter creating the Smithsonian Institution (SI) includes a provision for collecting works of art. The earliest collection of the Gallery of Art consists of prints and drawings collected by George Perkins Marsh and paintings of Indians by John Mix Stanley and Charles B. King. In 1865, a fire in the Smithsonian building destroyed most of the collection. Surviving paintings and sculptures were transferred to the Corcoran Gallery and the prints and drawings were transferred to the Library of Congress. All of the collections were transferred back to SI in 1895 and added to the George C. Catlin collection, which had been acquired in 1879.
In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt recommended to Congress that the SI establish a National Gallery of Art and to accept additions to its collection. Congress failed to take action on the recommendation. In 1906, the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, interpreting the original provision in the SI charter, defined the Gallery of Art to be in fact the National Gallery of Art. Substantial additions of works of art by Harriet Lane Johnston and William T. Evans to the collection of the newly renamed National Gallery of Art (NGA) during 1906 and 1907 formed the nucleus of the new Gallery. In 1937, NGA became the National Collection of Fine Arts (NCFA) when its old name was assigned to the new museum created by Andrew W. Mellon. In 1980, NCFA was renamed the National Museum of American Art (NMAA).
The Gallery was administered by the United States National Museum (USNM) from 1906 to 1920. William Henry Holmes, Chief of the American Bureau of Ethnology, 1902-1909, and Head Curator of Anthropology, 1910-1920, served, concurrently, as Curator of NGA, 1907-1920. In 1920, Congress granted money to the NGA to become a separate Smithsonian bureau. Holmes resigned from the USNM, and served as Director until his retirement in 1932. From 1932 to 1946, Ruel P. Tolman, who previously was Curator of the Division of Graphic Arts, USNM, served as Acting Director (NGA, 1932-1937; NCFA, 1937-1946) and Director (1946-1948, at his retirement). The directors after Tolman were Thomas M. Beggs (1948-1964), David W. Scott (1965-1968), Robert Taylor Davis (interim, 1969), Joshua C. Taylor (NCFA, 1970-1980; NMAA, 1980-1981), Harry Lowe (interim, 1981-1982), and Charles C. Eldridge (1982-1988).
Prior to 1906, the art exhibits were displayed in a room in the SI Building. From 1907 to 1909, the exhibits were split between the Arts and Industries Building and the Corcoran Gallery. From 1910 to 1968, the exhibits were held in the second floor in the Natural History building (just off the Rotunda, behind the escalator). In 1939, Architect Eliel Saarinen drew plans for a Smithsonian Gallery of Art on the site where the National Air and Space Museum now stands. In 1968, the Museum opened its first permanent gallery in the renovated Old Patent Office building, which it co-occupies with the National Portrait Gallery. The building was known as the Fine Art and Portrait Gallery (1968-1981), and the American Art and Portrait Gallery (since 1981).
Record Unit 312 documents for the most part the administration of Thomas M. Beggs, Assistant Director (1947-1948) and Director (1948-1964).
Thomas M. Beggs (1899-1990, born in Brooklyn, New York) graduated from Pratt Institute, 1920; Yale University, BFA 1924; attended the Ecole Americaine des Beaux Arts, Fountainbleau; and did graduate studies at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University.
From 1926 to 1947, Beggs served successively as Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor of Art at Pomona College, Claremont, California. He also served as the head of the Art Department prior to coming to NCFA.
In 1964, Beggs was appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary for Art of the Smithsonian Institution and served in this capacity until his retirement in 1965.

Notes
SI Records

Using the Collection
Prefered Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 312, National Collection of Fine Arts. Office of the Director, Records

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Beggs, Thomas M. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Saarinen, Eliel, 1873-1950 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Holmes, William Henry, 1846-1933 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ravenel, W. de C. (William de Chastignier), 1859-1933 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tolman, Ruel P. (Ruel Pardee), 1878-1954 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Walcott, Charles D. (Charles Doolittle), 1850-1927 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian Gallery of Art Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian Art Commission Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art and Archeology of Vietnam (Exhibition) (1960: Washington, D.C.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art museums Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum directors Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museums -- Administration Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum exhibits Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum buildings Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Black-and-white photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Washington, D.C.
Contact us at osiaref@si.edu