Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art development and membership records
Scope and Contents
The Development and Membership Office Records trace the growth of that office's activities and responsibilities and witness its maturation into an autonomous department of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Types of material in this record group include brochures, calendars, Congressional hearings and reports, correspondence, grant applications, meeting minutes, member and contributor lists, member and contributor record cards, memoranda, newsletters, pamphlets, reports, statistical data, and miscellaneous and ephemera items. Materials record information from 1869 through 1982 with the bulk of items dating after 1967.
Although the files include materials on the late 19th and early 20th centuries; their frequency, type and content are limited. Before the 1940's the activities later performed by the Membership and Development Office were carried out sporadically by others, most notably the Director's Office. Information .on membership and fund raising activities through WWII, therefore, will most often be located among the Directors' and Trustees' Records. Some "Record Cards on Contributors" were created in the late 1940's for the period 1869-1947, however, and are located in these files. They record such information as donor name; amount (money) or title and value (work of art) of contribution; artist name, if applicable; and date of official trustee acknowledgement of receipt of the gift.
One can discern a distinctive group of Membership and Development files for the period 1948-1967, wherein are recorded the early appointment of individuals and Committees to membership tasks. Materials from these years follow the Gallery's experimentation with its still novel Membership Department. Records reveal an expansion of Membership Office activities to include some rudimentary fund raising efforts. They also show modifications in Development/Membership staff titles and office organization. Materials for these years are more numerous and diverse than for the earlier years described above. They include correspondence and memoranda, mostly from the 1960's; quarterly reports; and record cards on contributors. Subjects discussed and type of information contained include donations received, both monetary gifts and works of art; Membership activities films, lectures, functions; bulk mailings for membership recruitment; and statistical information (contained in the quarterly reports) on department budgets and costs, new members, membership categories, and corporate, foundation , and individual contributions. Prominent figures who appear in the files with various positions in the Membership Office for these years include Inga (Wall) Heck, Mrs. Walter Suter, Clifton R. Cummings, and Julie Forgey.
The records from 1968 on reflect the Development and Membership Office's growth into its current form. With the renewed committee in 1968 to improve and expand the Gallery, Membership Office duties and, more significantly, Planning and Development activities were greatly expanded. This growth is evident from the increased amount, diversity and content of post 1967 Membership and Development files. Materials for these years also demonstrate efforts to revise and improve upon membership and fund raising procedures. The files show that bulk mailings became more frequent and much more systematic; professional consultants were hired, advising on Development goals and directions; fund raising goals were outlined and procedures streamlined; the Development and Membership Office staff was changed and expanded; and a more successful system of trustee committee/Gallery staff participation in office-related duties was sought.
Subjects discussed and types of information contained include information on diverse aspects of individual, corporate and foundation donors; special membership and fund raising campaigns, e.g. Capital Fund Drive, Opportunities for the Corcoran Campaign, etc.; consultant files; publications--Corcoran Calendar, Corcoran Newsletter, various membership brochures; Three Institution Proposal; the Corcoran School of Art; statistical information on contributions, membership, and members/contributors; and various reports which record changes, progress, and new directions of the Membership and Development Office. Prominent figures appearing in the files for these years include John Lottes, Jillian Poole, Judith Levesque, Constance Broadstone, and Sheila Muccio. Though the Development and Membership Office records for these later years are the most complete for this record group, they are not exhaustive. The Director's Office records have retained some items pertinent to Membership/Development. The Melzac files, for example, include Manager of Development Jillian Poole's 1971 evaluation of the progress and accomplishments of her office since 1969.
Development and Membership materials have been divided into nine series according to subject or record type. The series are organized along a scale which progresses from primary-like to secondary-like files. Series which contain the more personal (primary) materials of the Development and Membership Office, e.g. General Correspondence and Memoranda, appear first. Those most removed from the personal element, e.g. Statistics, Reports, Meeting Minutes, etc. , have been classed as secondary and are located at the end of the records. Subject series, often containing both types of items, make up the middle group of materials.
- circa 1869-2010
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This collection is closed to research. Please see the Public Services and Instruction Librarian with any questions.
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.
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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.
The creation and expansion of the Development/Membership Office reflects a gradual increase in Gallery staff size as well as an increased professionalization of administrative tasks and responsibilities.
The Membership Office was established in 1946, when the Trustees appointed the first Membership Secretary. The Trustees simultaneously created their own Committee on Membership. Attention in these early years seemed focused on sponsoring special events and activities and not necessarily on increasing financial contributions or the number of members.
The Committee on Membership was abolished in 1954 and was not introduced until the late 1960s. The Membership Secretary post remained the same, but in 1959-1960 a new position, Assistant to the Director for Membership Development, was added to the staff. Membership underwent a more dramatic personnel change in 1961-62 with the creation of the Extension Services Department. The Department Supervisor was placed in overall charge of membership but was given a Membership Assistant to help carry out duties.
Membership and Development were a substantial part of the Corcoran's 1968 reorganization efforts. During the late 1960s the Trustees created a Trustee Committee on Development and Membership (the first use of the term, development). This served as an expanded version of the post-World War II Membership Committee. In addition, old staff positions were abolished and were replaced with new ones: a Director of Planning and Development, Development Assistants, and a Membership Secretary -- a position defunct since 1961.
The Membership and Development Office was expanded and changed further in the 1970s. The Director of Planning and Development post went through a succession of both titular and substantive changes. The original position was changed to Manager of Development (1969), Development Officer (1974), Director of Development and Membership (1978), and finally, Associate Director of the Gallery for Development and Membership (1980).
Lesser staff positions likewise have varied in title and function after 1967 to include Development Assistants, Membership Secretaries, Development Associates, and a Membership Manager.
The following section of this history was prepared in 2019 by George Washington University SCRC staff with the support of the Luce Foundation.
Following the contentious cancelling of the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition “The Perfect Moment” in 1989, membership at the museum dropped, as well as donations to projects supported by the Development Office. Partially in response, a part-time membership and development consultant was hired in 1990.
In 1991, the museum began to actively look to fill the formerly vacant role of Director of Development. This position was filled in April 1991 under the title Vice President of Development and Public Affairs for the Corcoran Gallery. Duties undertaken by the Development office at this time included managing corporate donations and generating unrestricted income through public programs hosted at the Corcoran. The Development office also managed fundraising for exhibitions at the Corcoran and for the Annual Fund.
The office began a Deferred/Planned Giving Program in 1992 and in 1993 the Development office added a Corporate Affairs Officer. The office conducted a favorable review of Membership numbers in 1995, reflecting the success of the new telemarketing campaign, as well as the increased emphasis on corporate giving and partnerships.
In 2007 the Corcoran contracted Odell Simms & Associates for nine months to work on fundraising and development of several programs. By 2012, as the Corcoran Gallery of Art struggled with financial stability, the role of the Development office lessened as the Board focused on other efforts to create stable income for the Corcoran.
345 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
The Membership Office was established in 1946, when the Trustees appointed the first Membership Secretary. The Trustees simultaneously created their own Committee on Membership. Attention in these early years seemed focused on sponsoring special events and activities and not necessarily on increasing financial contributions or the number of members. The Development and Membership Office Records trace the growth of that office's activities and responsibilities and witness its maturation into an autonomous department of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Types of material in this record group include brochures, calendars, Congressional hearings and reports, correspondence, grant applications, meeting minutes, member and contributor lists, member and contributor record cards, memoranda, newsletters, pamphlets, reports, statistical data, and miscellaneous and ephemera items. Materials record information from 1869 through 1982 with the bulk of items dating after 1967.
Organized into 10 series: General correspondence and memoranda, "Chronological" files or "Blue" files, Subject files, Fundraising and membership solicitation, Three institution files, Corcoran School of Art, Reports/minutes/general texts, Statistics, Publications, and Unprocessed records
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 Membership and Development Office were transferred to the Archives from Corcoran storage areas, the Director's Office, and the Development/Membership Office in 1980 and 1981. Materials were largely unorganized. Some items were removed from the Director's Office records and have been placed with this record group. Clippings and photographs have been removed and filed with the history clippings files and the photographic records.
Post 1980 materials for the most part have not been deposited in or processed by the Archives at this time.
This note refers only to the processed portions of this collection.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Corcoran Institution Board of Trustees donated these records to The George Washington University in 2016.
Processing Information note
Accessioned by K. Robinson, August 1982
- Guide to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art Development and Membership records 1869-2010
- 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