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Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art directors' records

 Record Group
Identifier: COR0002.0-RG

Scope and Contents

The records of the Office of the Director document the activities of the executive officer of the institution. Together with the Records of the Board of Trustees, these records provide information on the overall management of the institution.

The nineteenth century directors (a.k.a. curators) handled all aspects of Gallery operation under very active trustee leadership. The records consist of incoming and outgoing correspondence (thought to be a complete record) which is indexed. An especially useful research tool is the journal kept by William MacLeod which summarized each day's activities for use in preparing his annual report to the trustees. Macleod discusses visitors to the Gallery, his opinion on works bought or given to the Gallery, construction of the present Gallery building [note in original finding aid the phrase "construction of the present Gallery building" has a line-strike through it] and discussions with trustees. The journals are not indexed but provide supplemental material to the correspondence and Trustee records.

The records of Minnigerode and Williams document the Gallery's increase in size and modernization. Correspondents include artists, dealers and donors. Most exhibition records had been filed separately. Any remaining correspondence dealing directly with exhibitions was removed to the curatorial records. Minnigerode’s records contain documentation about the Clark bequest and wing construction, the Corcoran's involvement with the government during the New Deal and World War II as well as correspondence, often lengthy, with artist friends. Correspondence with artists concerning submission of works to the Biennial Exhibition of Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists (except for the First) are filed in the Director's Correspondence under the artist's name because they were often part of a larger body of correspondence.

William’s correspondence deals most often with dealers and donors.

Later directors' records deal with the general management and policy of the museum and the school and Trustee committees. They reflect almost a decade of staggering changes in administrative structure, personnel, artistic direction and social milieu. These records document the Gallery's policy on a variety of issues and its direction. The earlier directors' records contains information which later would have been carried on by other departments.


  • Creation: 1869-2012


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to research.

Records are closed to research for 25 years from the date of creation.

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.

In 1873, the Board of Trustees defined and created the office of Curator of the Gallery. In subordination to the Board or its committees, the Curator was responsible for supervision of the building, its contents, and employees; for the "receipt, removal, arrangement, and preservation of the pictures, statues, casts, and other works of art"; for attending to the needs of visitors; for carrying on all correspondence with regard to works of art and creating a catalog; for keeping an account of money spent by him; for presenting a report on the progress of the institution at the annual Board meeting; for the supervision of "artists, amateurs, and pupils, who may be permitted to work in the building," and for aiding the Board Secretary with correspondence and clerical tasks.

In 1900, the By-Laws were amended changing the position of curator to director. The duties remained basically the same except that the provision was made that the director could delegate duties to appropriate staff members under his supervision.

Until 1946, the staff remained quite small and the directors were actively involved with all aspects of Gallery activities. After 1946, the staff increased and responsibilities were more departmentalized with the director performing the management functions.

On May 27, 1968, the Board approved a general administrative reorganization at which time the office of the Executive Vice President was created to be "the representative of the Trustees in the management of the Gallery (museum) and the Art School" and to "prescribe the duties of the Director of the Gallery and the Dean of the Art School, who shall report to him." In April, 1971, the office of Executive Vice President was abolished.

In its stead, the Trustees appointed a member of the Board of Governors to be Chairman of a new Operations Committee which would have "direct control of all operations of the Gallery and the Art School." The Director of the Gallery and the Dean of the Art School reported to the Chairman of the Operating Committee. Later, in July, 1972, the title of this position was changed to Chief Executive Officer.

During the time period 1968-1972, the Executive Vice President or Chief Executive Office were responsible for management and fiscal matters, while the Director was responsible for directing the museum's artistic activities and whatever administrative matters were assigned to him. This division of management responsibilities did not prove successful.

In November, 1972, after the resignation of the Chief Executive Officer and the Director, the Dean of the Art School was given the additional responsibility of Director of the Gallery reporting directly to the Board. In 1977, a Trustee was temporarily appointed Chief Executive Officer until the appointment of a permanent chief executive officer with the title of Director, responsible to the Board for the management of the museum and the school.

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

In 1978, the Board of Trustees voted to split the current duties of Director-- which had included the positions of Director of the museum, overseer of the school of art, and Chief Executive Officer reporting to the Board-- officially into three separate positions.

The Gallery had difficulty retaining Directors through the 1970s and 1980s, culminating in the exit of Christina Orr-Cahall as a result of the canceling of the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition “The Perfect Moment” in 1989. Following this, stability returned to the position for several years.

For a period during 1991, the Director temporarily took over the duties of the Dean of the School of Art and Design until the position could be filled. The Director would permanently take on the duel role of Director of the Gallery and Dean of the School of Art and Design from 2010 until the dissolution of the Gallery in 2014.

Directors of the Corcoran timeline

William MacLeod
F. Sinclair Barbarin
Frederick B. McGuire
C. Powell Minnigerode
Hermann Warner Williams, Jr.
James Harithas
Aldus H. Chapin (Executive Vice President)
Walter Hopps
Vincent Malzac (Chairman, Operating Committee)
Vincent Malzac (Chief Executive Officer)
Gene Baro
Roy Slade
Peter C. Marzio
Edward J. Nygren (Acting Director)
Michael Botwinick
Edward J. Nygren (Acting Director)
Christina Orr-Cahall
David W. Scott (Acting Director)
David Levy
Paul Greenhalgh
Fred Bollerer
Peggy Loar (Interim Director and President, Corcoran School)


400 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The records of the Office of the Director document the activities of the executive officer of the institution. Together with the Records of the Board of Trustees, these records provide information on the overall management of the institution. The records in this record group date from approximately 1869 to 2012.


Organized into 31 series : MacLeod, Barbarin and McGuire records; Minnigerode and Williams records; Aldus H. Chapin records; James Harithas records; Walter Hopps board records; Walter Hopps records; Vincent Melzac records; Gene Baro records; Roy Slade records [legacy series]; Roy slade records Gilbert Kinney records; Associate Directors Domit and Glicksman records; Assistant Directors Dorra, Vigtel and Madigan records; Administrative files (Igna, Kovaly, Fralin); Administrative files (Craddock, Harper); Vice president of management records; General memoranda; Chronological correspondence; Peter C. Marzio records; Michael Botwinick records; Edward J. Nygrene (Acting Director); Christina Orr-Cahall records; David W. Scott records; David Levy records; Administrative files; Board of Trustees records; Exhibition files; Gehry project records; Randall School project records; Director Minnigerode Family papers; and Corcoran Gallery of Art artifacts.

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 past directors from MacLeod to Slade were transferred to the Corcoran Archives en masse when the original Archives project was begun in January 1980. They had been stored in various areas throughout the Corcoran building. The records were poorly labeled and organized. Some directors' correspondence was retrieved from the Artists' Vertical Files and refiled with the appropriate director's files.

Additional records were transferred to the Corcoran Archives through 2014 and left unprocessed until donation to The George Washington University.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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

Processing Information

The materials in series 1 through 17 were part of a processing project in the 1980s. The materials in series 18 through 29 were transferred to the Corcoran Archives after the mid-1980s. In 2016, Special Collections undertook a retrospective processing project to capture folder and date information for the boxes within series 18 through 29. The series titles were derived using information collected during the original transfer to the Corcoran Archives. The 2016 project did not integrate these records with those processed in the 1980s. There is undoubtedly some overlap in content, but it is usually the case that the materials in series 18 through 29 postdate that in series 1 through 17.

Guide to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art directors' records, circa 1896-2012
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