Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art education department records
Scope and Contents
The creation of the Education Department in 1965 coincided with the conviction on the part of the Corcoran that a museum art gallery should be more than a repository for precious objects, but rather, that is should be a force in moving art from its ''exclusive" status to a position of general availability to the public. With this goal in mind, the Education Department developed art experiences for Washington area young people and adults that are a crucial mixture of workshop activity and exposure to original works of art. The records of the Education Department reflect its desire to provide an operational base for the crucial mixture of basic art history, the museum process, and the workshop process. The records cover all aspects of the Education Department's operation and administration and include: docent notebooks and training material; intern notebooks and training material; proposals to create an education department; standard operating procedures; budgets; grant proposals and funds; correspondence; activities notebooks; resource notebooks; school workshops; public liaison committee; school tours program; lesson plans and notes for school tours; programs offered; exhibition labels and research materials; film lists; lectures and lecture possibilities; publicity; and bibliographic material.
Names that are prominent in the Education Department records are: Roger L. Selby Sue Ann Hoth David Stevens Susan Gans Donna Ari Theresa Simmons Barbara Moore
- circa 1961-2010
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The first section of this history, covering events through 1981, was prepared by Corcoran Archivist Katherine M. Kovocs for publication in 1985 with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In 1955 a small group of volunteer women began guiding tours through the Corcoran Gallery of Art. This initial docent program was successful but could not be adequately administered by the Curator whose other Gallery responsibilities were equally demanding. It became obvious to the Women's Committee that the existing tour program could only be met by the establishment of a permanent office with a full-time staff. The Women's Committee argued and generously supported the view that the Corcoran needed an Education department, not only to administer the docent program but also to help play up the importance of the Gallery as a center of American art. Consequently, on June 15, 1967, ten years after the inception of the initial docent program, the Education Department began with Roger Selby as Curator of Education.
The major tasks of the Education Department at its inception were many. An important step was to overhaul the docent program -- to review scheduling procedures, to determine the number of docents the Corcoran needed, to outline the requirements necessary for docentry, and initiate formal and informal docent training in order to ensure quality performances. As well as being responsible for docent selection, training, assignments, and discharge, the Education Department was responsible for the selection, organization, and content of the tours conducted by the docents. With this end in mind, Roger Selby, the first curator, began to build a slide collection to use in docent training and in the Art History courses which he was first the teach in the Corcoran School of Art. Another important task of the Education Department was to explore new developments in education via consulting with educators and institutions and to represent the Corcoran Gallery of Art as an educational advisor. To this end, the Women's Committee with a generous donation from Mrs. John A. Logan, and in conjunction with the Education Department, created the Children's Gallery in 1966.
Established in Gallery 50, the Children's Gallery - filled with tables and chairs - served as a display area as well as a workshop. Through the Children's Gallery, the Education Department offered a series of correlated exhibitions related to school curricula which were supplemented by the use of films, demonstrations, participation and lectures; a series of workroom sessions for different age groups giving opportunities to paint, model, make prints, weave, make pottery and explore all other crafts; a series of special events designed to take advantage of transient opportunities to enliven and expand the regular program. Though the Children's Gallery itself was phased out, the Corcoran Education Department maintained a viable and lively workshop designed to complement the curricula of the D.C. area public/private schools. The Education Department also offered the extension of various services to the educational community from the Gallery resources. For instance, the setting-up and circulating of prefabricated small exhibitions to schools and the maintenance and circulation of good quality reproductions to be available on long-term loans to decorate school assembly halls and classrooms on a yearly or half-yearly basis.
A further task of the Education Department was community outreach. The Special Education project first started as an adjunct to the Education Department in 1968, and had the task of formulating and implementing an intensive, comprehensive community outreach program for the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In 1969, a new department, under the curator of education, was formed extending full recognition to the first year of experimental programming. Special Education organized specialty outreach workshops on painting, drawing, sculpture, graphics, design, photography, film-making, and creative puppetry. The Special Program department worked with settlement houses, community centers, Capital Headstart, National Capital Housing Authority, National Parks Service, Minimum Security Detention Center at Lorton, Va., Neighborhood Youth Corps, and Workshops for Careers in the Arts.
To enhance the Corcoran's public image, the Education Department inaugurated various Wednesday Gallery talks and initiated the first European Art Seminars, and tours for members.
The Education Department always sought ways in which to involve the public as participants rather than just onlookers in their visits to the Corcoran Gallery. In planning programs that would introduce processes of art, as well as art history, the department hoped to encourage awareness of the activity of creating and the thought involved in art creation. The Education Department endeavored to present an appropriate introduction to the Gallery for each age level, a unique visual experience that engages the viewer and one that would encourage him to return, and the development of the Gallery as a resource of original art works and the means to use that resource.
The following section of this history was prepared in 2019 by George Washington University SCRC staff with the support of the Luce Foundation.
For a time the Education Department was responsible for both the Annual Report and graphics for the Gallery, but was eventually able to pass those jobs to other more appropriate departments. Responsibility for graphics, in particular, was handed over to the Public Relations department.
During the 1980s the Education Department began to focus more heavily on programming connected to special and temporary exhibitions. These programs and events related to the themes of the exhibition and included evening lecture series, children’s craft programs, and programs aimed at teachers and educators.
The Education Department created a sister group to the Corcoran Docents in 1983 by adding a corps of individuals from the Junior League of the District of Columbia who staffed the museum’s information desk. They also gave weekend introductory tours about the museum’s permanent collection and collected a written comment and complaint log to assist with visitor feedback. The Department was also responsible for several branches of the Corcoran’s internship program, including undergraduate, graduate, and high school level opportunities
In 1988, the Education Department launched “We the People”, which consisted of three American art and art history programs with a focus on inclusive and diverse stories. These programs included sections on portraiture, landscape painting, and still life, and brought a variety of teaching aids that included art reproductions, color slides, and classroom materials into D.C. area schools. Expansion of the program in 1990 added in-school visits, museum tours, and art-making studios. This program reached over 27,000 students annually.
During this time, the department’s adult education programs moved from Wednesday to Thursday, and came to include Art & Co, a lecture and film series for the city’s working community.
The Education Department also worked for several years on generating informative in-gallery labels for the permanent collection as part of the gallery’s push in the late 1990s and early 2000s to become an intellectually accessible museum.
Throughout the 2000s, the department continued to create evening programs as well as educational materials tied to specific exhibitions. At this time, the department also began to integrate in-school materials with exhibition-specific programing, creating educational materials that teachers could continue to use after the trip to the Gallery. This initiative expanded into a summer Teachers Institute.
The department ended its functionality when the Gallery was partitioned in 2014, although a Continuing Education department does still exist as part of the Corcoran School of the Art and Design, focusing on non-credit art and design courses for adults of all ages.
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Language of Materials
In 1955 a small group of volunteer women began guiding tours through the Corcoran Gallery of Art. This initial docent program was successful but could not be adequately administered by the Curator whose other Gallery responsibilities were equally demanding. It became obvious to the Women's Committee that the existing tour program could only be met by the establishment of a permanent office with a full-time staff. The Women's Committee argued and generously supported the view that the Corcoran needed an Education department, not only to administer the docent program but also to help play up the importance of the Gallery as a center of American art. Consequently, on June 15, 1967, ten years after the inception of the initial docent program, the Education Department began with Roger Selby as Curator of Education. The records cover all aspects of the Education Department's operation and administration and include: docent notebooks and training material; intern notebooks and training material; proposals to create an education department; standard operating procedures; budgets; grant proposals and funds; correspondence; activities notebooks; resource notebooks; school workshops; public liaison committee; school tours program; lesson plans and notes for school tours; programs offered; exhibition labels and research materials; film lists; lectures and lecture possibilities; publicity; and bibliographic material.
Organized into 21 series [Note series 1-13 were processed in 1984 and series 14-21 were processed in 2016]: Administration, Finances, Correspondence, Docents, Interns, Activities notebook, Schools, Programs, Exhibitions, Films, Lectures, Publicity, Miscellaneous, Administration files, Admissions files, Audio visual content, Events, Exhibitions, Grants, Programs, and Tours, interns, publicity files
Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.
The records of the Education Department were transferred to the Corcoran Archives from storage beginning in January 1980, and intermittently since then, directly from the Education Department.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Corcoran Institution Board of Trustees donated these records to The George Washington University in 2016.
The following records were discarded: various unrelated correspondence, duplicate correspondence (Xerox & carbon), interdepartmental memos, time sheets, budget work sheets, outdated mailing lists, addresses and directories, old program information requests, tour requests, reservations and schedules, school calendars and docent training and tour schedules. During the processing the following records were removed to another location: -Photographs to Archive audio-visual records -Catalogs to Curatorial publications -News clippings to Artists vertical files and history clipping files -News releases to P.R. press release series
Series 1-13 processed by Sandra C. Emmerson, October 1984.
In 1984 the processing of the records resulted in the materials that comprise series 1 - 13. In 2016 a second processing project to capture folder titles was undertaken for the remaining unprocessed content which in this record group comprises series 14-21. At time of transfer of the Archives in 2016 it is possible the materials in Series 1-13 did not transfer. Please see the note for series 1-13 for a more detailed explanation.
- Guide to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design,Corcoran Gallery of Art education department records1961-2010
- Partially Processed
- Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English