Friday, May 4, 2007

Museum Of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) Archives awarded NHPRC grant

The Museum Of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) Archives is the recent recipient of a three year grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The NHPRC fully awarded the MFAH Archives proposal, providing 101,995 in funds for the processing of 402 linear feet of archival holdings. The MFAH will match funds for the project, which focuses on facilitating access to its archival materials through arrangement, description and the placement of finding aids on the MFAH Web site. Measures to preserve the documents are also being undertaken.

In October, the Project Archivist position was filled by Kathryn Jones. Jones is a recent graduate of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of North Texas. Her past experience has included two internships with the rare book collection of the MFAH's European decorative arts wing, Rienzi. She is a member of the Society of American Archivists, the American Library Association, the Texas Library Association and the Archivists of the Houston Area.

As the year draws to an end, the first objective of the grant project - the processing of the records of current museum director, Peter C. Marzio - is concluding. These records have been the primary focus of the project due to Marzio's instrumental role in the emergence of the MFAH as a predominant force on the U.S. art landscape and in the early museum archives movement in the U.S. during the late 1970’s and 1980’s.

Other materials selected for this project are institutional records and collections of personal papers that illustrate the museum’s unique and important role in the cultural life of Houston and Texas. They are of significant historical interest to the art community as well as to students of museum studies, education, history, architecture, design, urban development, landscape design, philanthropy, and women and ethnic studies.

Among the archives to be processed and catalogued during the grant period are the estate papers of Texas philanthropist, Miss Ima Hogg, who donated Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens to the MFAH in 1957. Also included in the project are the drawings and correspondence of designer Sally Walsh, the first Houstonian to enter Interior Design’s Hall of Fame.

Also slated for the project are the museum’s exhibition files that, according to MFAH Archives director, Lorraine A. Stuart, generate some of the greatest and most consistent research interest among the archival holdings. Other institutional records are those of the MFAH education department, which oversees one of the most widely acclaimed museum educational programs in the country.

Subjects covered in the museum's institutional records include the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations in 1990; the 1987 landmark exhibition, Hispanic Art in the United States: Thirty Contemporary Painters and Sculptors; Isamu Noguchi’s design for the museum’s Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, completed in 1986; the ongoing Jack Yates Magnet School Photography program; the Masterson collections of Worcester porcelain and David Webb jewelry; and the 1995 installation of American sculpture at the White House.

This recent award is the second grant the MFAH has received from the NHPRC. The first grant, in the amount of $94,000, provided the original seed money for the establishment of the museum archives in 1984.

One of the oldest art museum archives in the country, the MFAH’s Archives consists of 2,500 linear feed of institutional records and manuscript collections spanning more than 100 years. The department also operates the institutional records management program, which oversees an additional 1,000 linear feet of temporary records. It serves as the official repository for the records of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and the Art Libraries Society of North America’s Texas-Mexico Chapter and houses a micrographic copy of the Texas Art Project, a segment of the Archives of American Art compiled by the Smithsonian Institution. Through a Web-based database, the Archives provides unparalled access to extensive and detailed information on the MFAH’s exhibition history. Its holdings have been a valuable source in the compilation of local and regional histories, Houston architectural surveys, catalogues raisonné and other monographs.

Originally published January 3, 2007


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