This record unit documents the activities of the Office's first three Historians. Most of the records were created during Marc Pachter's tenure. They include much correspondence between Pachter and art historians, artists, national and international art institutions, and funding organizations. There is also correspondence with Amy E. Henderson, Assistant Historian, Kenneth Young and J. Michael Carrigan, exhibition designers, and Mona Dearborn, keeper of the Catalog of American Portraits. In addition, the records document symposia and discussion panels organized by the Office and the production and display of exhibitions.
The Office of the Historian, National Portrait Gallery (NPG), was established in 1966 when Daniel J. Reed was appointed the first Historian. Reed resigned in 1968 and Virginia Purdy became Acting Historian. Beverly J. Cox was appointed Historian in 1970. A year later, Lillian B. Miller was appointed Historian and Cox became Assistant Historian. Cox left the Office to become Coordinator of Exhibitions in 1973. Miller continued to serve as Historian until 1974 when she became editor of the Charles Willson Peale Papers. Marc Pachter was appointed Historian in 1975 and served in that capacity through 1984.
The Historian was appointed to direct the research program of the NPG in American iconography, biography, and history; to explore the art of portraiture in the United States and the Western world; and to conduct studies of men and women of any nation who made significant contributions to the history, development, and culture of the United States. From 1966 through 1967, the Historian also supervised the activities of the Catalog of American Portraits at NPG.
The Office also prepared biographical information on individuals whose portraits were offered to the NPG by gift or purchase. It undertook to prepare succinct and informative labels for portraits in the permanent collections or items on exchange; wrote catalogs; and conducted research on objects represented in portraits, statuary, prints, miniatures, and engravings.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 556, National Portrait Gallery. Historian's Office, Records
Smithsonian Institution Archives
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