Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Smithsonian American Art Museum: Highlights from Art Inventories Catalog

Over the past years, I have become familiar with the breadth and scope of the Smithsonian Institution, and have worked extensively with the rich holdings that are a part of the Smithsonian American Art/National Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library, particularly delving into its books, catalogues, and ephemeral collections. As a whole, this institution is essential because of its role in identifying, collecting, and making materials accessible not only for their staff, but for researchers, appraisers, students, artists, the layman, and other interested individuals from across the country, and on an international level. Through their art collections, archival materials, and print collections, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its various support units play a crucial role in documenting African American artists in the broader context of American art. Simply, the breadth and depth of their collections serve as a resource, either documenting African Americans as a subject or the contributions of African American artists. They do not stand alone in this effort, but this post focuses on the highlights from one of The Smithsonian American Art Museum's research databases-- "the Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture which provides descriptive data on over 400,000 art works done by artists born or working in this country."

"The Inventory of American Paintings includes works by artists who were active in America by 1914. The Inventory of American Sculpture has no cut-off date and includes works from the colonial era through contemporary times. These online databases are supplemented by a photographic collection of over 80,000 images."   This database includes African American highlights that may be seen at the following link: Art Inventories Catalog of Smithsonian American Art Museum.

In an upcoming post, I will feature the results from an on-going and extensive project that I have been involved with at the AA/PG Library's vertical file, a rich ephemeral resource. This project has been directly related to African American artists and their inclusion in the vertical file collection of the Smithsonian American Art/National Portrait Gallery Library.


  1. Hi George! Enjoyed your post. I haven't dug into your archives, so you may have already seen it, but we currently have an exhibition on view, "African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond," that you might like. It's up through Sept. 5 so if you haven't gotten downtown for it, do so soon. It's an inspiring and eye-popping display of 100 works from our collection--the largest collection of African American art in the country.

    Public Affairs
    Smithsonian American Art Museum

    1. Thanks, Mandy

      I have seen and immensely enjoyed your current exhibit, "African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond". The Alma Thomas piece that is front and center is a striking piece and I can not remember seeing her use of that color palette before...loved it. ...Will be adding the catalogue to my collection.