Archives of American Art Announces Grant from the Walton Family Foundation to Support Digitization of Collections

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  • October 27, 2016

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Oscar Bluemner papers, 1886-1939, 1960. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art announced today that it has received a three-year grant of up to $900,000 from the Walton Family Foundation to support the ongoing digitization of the Archives’ collections. The Archives is obliged to match the grant that will be given in three annual installments of up to $300,000 each. The support enables the Archives to double its current rate of collections digitization in stages from 50 linear feet to 100 linear feet per year and will result in at least 240 additional linear feet of archival material to be available online by September 2019.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with a second research facility in New York City, the Archives holds nearly 6,000 collections of archival material on the artists, collectors, dealers and scholars who have shaped the history of art in America. Its oral-history program, containing interviews with important artists ranging from Charles Burchfield to Kehinde Wiley, preserves the voices and personal stories of nearly 2,300 art-world luminaries recorded since 1958. Transcripts for many of these are available on the Archives’ website.

“The Archives, with more than 20 million items in our ever-expanding collections, is the world’s largest and most widely used resource dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and primary records of the visual arts in America,” said David Skorton, Secretary of the Smithsonian. “This generous grant from the Walton Family Foundation will help us provide more material available online at a faster pace. On behalf of the Archives and the growing number of people around the globe who explore our singular collections online, we are deeply grateful for the foundation’s support.”

Since the inception of its digitization program in 2004 with support from the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Archives has created nearly 2.5 million digital images that together represent full online access to more than 160 of its most important collections, including the papers of art world luminaries such as Milton Avery, Joseph Cornell, Lee Krasner, Horace Pippin, Jackson Pollock and Grant Wood among many others. As the program has grown, visitation to the Archives has increased from about 2,000 users a year via its reading rooms and interlibrary loan program for its microfilm to more than 500,000 users a year, with the vast majority visiting online.

“The task of digitizing the Archives’ vast collections for broad accessibility requires a dedicated team of experts and time,” said Kate Haw, director of the Archives of American Art. “This challenge grant from the distinguished Walton Family Foundation allows us to expand both our technical and staff capacities to ramp up our pace beyond what we could have imagined. We look forward to getting underway to achieve our ultimate goal of making our collections available to anyone, anytime, anywhere and stimulating understanding and appreciation of American art worldwide.”


About the Archives of American Art

Founded in 1954, the Archives of American Art fosters advanced research through the accumulation and dissemination of primary sources, unequaled in historical depth and breadth, that document more than 200 years of the nation’s artists and art communities. The Archives provides access to these materials through its exhibitions and publications, including the Archives of American Art Journal, the longest-running scholarly journal in the field of American art. An international leader in the digitizing of archival collections, the Archives also makes more than 2 million digital images freely available online. The oral-history collection includes more than 2,200 audio interviews, the largest accumulation of in-depth, first-person accounts of the American art world.


About the Walton Family Foundation

For nearly three decades, the Walton Family Foundation has continued the philanthropic vision begun by Sam and Helen Walton. Their legacy is more important than ever as the foundation accelerates efforts to improve K–12 education for all students in America, to protect rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and to give back to the region that first gave Sam and Helen Walton opportunity. In 2015, the Walton Family Foundation awarded grants totaling nearly $375 million. Learn more at

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