The “O’Connor File” and the WPA

- This post was contributed by Kelsey Clark, intern at the Smithsonian AA/PG Library summer 2013. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created during the Great Depression as the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of people to carry out public works. This included artists, such as William Gropper, Marsden Hartley, Henry Varnum Poor, or Ben Shahn, who painted murals across the nation, from inside Coit Tower in San Francisco to the Harlem Hospital in New York City. The Smithsonian Libraries collection has books and archival material on the WPA projects, including a file on one man intimately connected to the government project: Dr. Francis V. O’Connor. During my internship, I was given the “O’Connor File” as a research project – a box filled with files containing published articles and books he had written, archival notes, and letter correspondence between the former Librarians at the National Portrait Gallery and various patrons concerning the rights to read some mysterious “questionnaires” that were somehow connected to O’Connor and the WPA. What were more »

Federal Art Project material in the Vertical Files

This post was written by Kate Wilson, a 2012 spring intern at the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library (AAPG Library). I have background and work experience in both library and archival science – I’ve worked equally in both types of institutions and enjoy the hands-on, primary resources I find in archival work but the interaction, service, and reference I get from working in libraries. The AAPG Library’s Art & Artist File combine my love of primary documentation and reference work, and it is in this unique collection that I found a trove of original promotional materials for the short-lived Federal Art Project, the fine arts arm of the Works Project Administration.

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