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Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art Friends records

 Record Group
Identifier: COR0008.2-RG

Scope and Contents

These administrative records of the corporation known as The Friends of the Corcoran document the development of this organization from its inception in the spring of 1961 to the present. Records consist predominantly of correspondence, minutes, flyers, invoices, and memoranda. The records are arranged into series as follows: Establishment, Board of Directors' Records, Membership, Financial, Exhibitions, Acquisitions, Trips, Miscellaneous Activities, Clippings, and Events. Within this arrangement the documents attempt to illustrate the motives behind the establishment of The Friends (most importantly the acquisition of works of American art to be presented to the Corcoran) and the methods used and success obtained in fulfilling this purpose.

These records are generally incomplete. The most significant gaps occur in the Board of Directors' Records series. Most importantly, the files of Annual and Regular Monthly Minutes are generally incomplete with a particularly notable gap in the years 1969-1975 in both files. Another deficient area in this series is that of the officers of The Friends correspondence files. This collection has the correspondence of Jesse R. Barnett, the first secretary, Judge Christopher Beard, treasurer, 1969 and 1970, Estelle Bechhoefer, president from 1975-1978, Frederick Blachley, secretary and vice president through the years 1976-1979, and Dr. Thomas A. Mathews , treasurer , vice president and president through the years 1967-1975. Of these only the correspondence of Estelle Bechhoefer is in any way substantial and in fact, is one of the more reliable sources of information for the later years of The Friends. There is very little correspondence from the years 1962-1969, hence, the events of these years are less well documented. The Exhibition, Acquisition and Miscellaneous Activities series are also very incomplete, however, the files of flyers, found in the membership series, are fairly complete and can provide details on these subjects.


  • Creation: circa 1961-1995


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to research.

When conducting research within The Corcoran Archives collections, pleased be advised of the following restrictions:

Records of the Board of Trustees (RG 1.0) and records of the Office of the Director (RG 2.0) are closed to research for 25 years from the date of creation.

Development records are closed to research (RG 3.2).

Access to student records is governed by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of student education records. Student records are closed for the lifetime of the student, and are presumed to be open 75 years after the date of record creation (RG 9.0 Series 4).

Personnel and financial records are closed for 50 years from date of record creation (RG 4.0).

Please see the Public Services and Instruction Librarian for assistance.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that the institution owns copyright, the donor has assigned the copyright in its works to The George Washington University; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For activities that the researcher determines fall under fair use as defined under U.S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Please contact Special Collections if the copyright status of the materials you wish to reuse is unclear. Staff will provide additional information. For re-use of materials in the collection not created by the donor, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights, determining if the intended re-use falls under fair use, and obtaining approval from the copyright holder if the intended use does not fall under fair use. For such materials, researchers do not need anything further from The George Washington University’s Special Collections Research Center.

Historical narrative

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.

The Friends of the Corcoran is a non-profit membership corporation formed in the spring of 1961 with the primary purpose of acquiring works of art to supplement the permanent collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In the fulfillment of this purpose The Friends also aim to promote the private collecting of contemporary American art, stimulate interest in the Gallery, encourage individual donations to the Gallery by its members, and, by purchasing their works, lend tangible encouragement to twentieth century American artists of merit.

In addition to art purchases, The Friends arrange educational and enjoyable events usually related to the members' interest in the collecting of art, such as special Gallery exhibitions, meetings with artists, and trips to other museum and private collections. Of their more well-known events are their Anniversary Exhibitions every fifth year.

The Friends of the Corcoran has its own Charter and By-Laws and is governed by four officers and a Board of Directors. Those who have served the office of president are:

1961-1963 Judge Edward Beard; 1963-1965 Mr. Sidney Zlotnick; 1965-1967 Mrs. Thomkins; 1967 Mr. Fleming Bomar; 1968-1969 Mr. Mark Sandground; 1969-1970 Judge Catherine Keggy; 1970-1972 Mr. Julian Singman; 1972-1975 Dr. Thomas Mathews; 1975-1978 Mrs. Bernhard Bechhoefer; 1978-1981 Mr. Marvin Gerstin

Once each year, at an annual Acquisitions Dinner, the members have the opportunity to vote upon a choice for presentation to the Gallery from among a group of works selected by the Acquisitions Committee and approved by the staff at the Corcoran. This Committee is composed of three members chosen by the general membership, three members chosen by the Board of Directors and the president.

After operating independently of the Corcoran for thirteen years, arrangements were made to bring The Friends into a closer relationship with the Gallery. In September of 1974, the Board of Trustees resolved that membership in The Friends could be obtained only by making the appropriate contribution to the Corcoran. The Gallery in turn agreed to turn over a part of this revenue to The Friends to provide them with funds necessary to fulfill their purpose. The results are an enlarged membership for The Friends, and for the Gallery, an element of programming which would bring increased benefits to its higher paying members.

In 1979, the Friends’ Charter and By-Laws were rewritten into a single document in 1979.

The following section of this history was prepared in 2019 by George Washington University SCRC staff with the support of the Luce Foundation.

During the 1990s The Friends began to take a more proactive role in fundraising for the Corcoran. Traditionally, the Friends had raised funds solely through membership dues.

In 1991, The Friends began the Annual Friends Benefit, which included a silent auction and concert with proceeds going towards the President’s Exhibition Fund. In 1992, the Friends amended their Bylaws to make the acquisition process of art donations more flexible, allowing for more than one donation each year.


4.5 Linear Feet (3 record center cartons)

Language of Materials



The Friends of the Corcoran is a non-profit membership corporation formed in the spring of 1961 with the primary purpose of acquiring works of art to supplement the permanent collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. These administrative records of The Friends of the Corcoran document the development of this organization from its inception in the spring of 1961 through 1995. The records consist predominantly of correspondence, minutes, flyers, invoices, and memoranda and date from 1961 to 1995.


Organized into 10 series: Establishment of the Friends, Board of Directors' records, Membership, Financial, Exhibitions, Acquisitions, Trips, Miscellaneous activities, Clippings, and Events.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Custodial History

The records of The Friends began transfer to the Corcoran Archives in Spring 1981 by various officers of The Friends. During processing the records were consolidated by the Archives staff.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Corcoran Institution Board of Trustees donated these records to The George Washington University in 2016.

Related Materials

Additional information concerning exhibitions sponsored by The Friends may be found in the records of the Curatorial Office (COR RG 5.0) and particularly in the collection of exhibition catalogs (COR RG 5.0 Series 6). Additional information concerning The Friends' acquisitions may be found in the Accession files in the Registrar's Office (COR 5.1 Series 1 and 2). Finally, the Directors' files (COR RG 2.0) may be another source of information on The Friends.

Guide to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art Friends records, circa 1961-1995
University Archives, 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

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

George Washington University Gelman Library
2130 H Street NW
Washington DC 20052 United States of America