Records of the Assistants to the Directors, 1913-1999
- Majority of material found within 1927-1943
Conditions on Access:
Copyright: President and Fellows of Harvard College hold any copyright in the Records of the Assistants to the Directors. Copyright in some papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Harvard Art Museums Archinves before publishing quotations from any material in the collection.
Conditions on Use:
Extent13 linear feet (28 file boxes, oversize materials)
The folders have been re-housed into archival folders and boxes. Folders and their content have been kept in their original order, and overstuffed folders have been divided among several folders for the sake of preservation and numbered to indicate that they represent a part of a larger whole (for example, "folder 1 of 2"). The original folder titles have been retained; any added information has been enclosed in square brackets by the processing archivist. The folders are filed alphabetically by title in two series.
Acidic documents have been isolated with archival paper and in some cases enclosed in mylar. Fragile materials have been enclosed in mylar. Oversize materials have been filed in oversize storage; separation sheets indicate their removal. These oversize materials may be consulted upon request, and their location is indicated in the detailed container list that follows. Some of the collection suffered water damage in a flood of the archives in 1998; as a result, many of the papers are wrinkled, some ink has run, and some are stuck together and in need of treatment by conservators.
Walter Helck Siple (1890-1978), the first Assistant to the Directors, did both his undergraduate and graduate work at Harvard, receiving a B.S. in 1915 and an A.M. in 1917. He then began work at Groton School, where he taught science from 1917 to 1926. Siple decided he would prefer a career related to the Fine Arts, though, and wrote of this interest to Fogg Museum Director Edward Forbes. Forbes hired him in April 1927 as the first Assistant to the Directors; Siple assisted not only Forbes but also Associate Director Paul J. Sachs. Siple was also responsible for teaching summer courses in the Fine Arts at Harvard, in a program initiated by the Committee on Education of the American Institute of Architects and funded by the Carnegie Corporation. He also served as a lecturer in Fine Arts for one year. Siple held the position of Assistant to the Directors for just over two years, leaving in 1929 to become Director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, as well as Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Cincinnati and Curator of the Charles P. Taft collection.
Siple was succeeded by Henry Sayles Francis (1902-1994). Francis, also a Harvard graduate, studied under Fogg Museum Associate Director Paul J. Sachs as an undergraduate and received his A.B. in 1924. Upon graduation, he accepted a job at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) as an assistant in the Print Department. Francis held this position from 1924 until 1927, when he was appointed Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Cleveland Museum of Art. He stayed in Cleveland until 1929, when Forbes offered him the position of Assistant to the Directors at the Fogg. Francis accepted the job, which also included responsibility for the Harvard University Portrait Collection, and held it until 1931, when he returned to the Cleveland Museum of Art. He was named Curator of Paintings, Prints and Drawings at that institution in 1931, a position he held until his retirement in 1967.
Francis was succeeded by Frederick Bruce Robinson (1907-1973), also a Harvard graduate. Robinson received his A.B. in 1931, having also studied under Paul J. Sachs in his famous Museum Course, and was hired for the position of Assistant to the Directors following his graduation. In addition to administrative responsibilities in the museum and the care of the University Portrait collection, Robinson was also a Lecturer in the Harvard Extension Program and in the Carnegie-funded summer courses in art appreciation held at Harvard. He also led experimental and innovative courses for blind students from the Perkins Institute and for the unemployed. Awarded a Sachs Traveling Fellowship in 1937, Robinson left the Fogg and accepted a job at the Boston MFA to begin at the conclusion of his travels. He worked as assistant to George H. Edgell, the MFA's Director, from 1937 until 1940, when he was chosen to serve as director of the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts. He was that institution's director for thirty-two years, retiring in 1972.
John Seymour Thacher (1904-1982) began work at the Fogg Museum on August 1, 1936; his initial title was Keeper of Paintings. In effect, though, he served as an auxiliary to Frederick Robinson in the Directors' office, and upon Robinson's departure in 1937 Thacher's title changed to Assistant to the Directors. Thacher received a B.A. from Yale University in 1927, did graduate work at Harvard from 1931-1934, and studied at the Courtauld Institute in London from 1935-1936. He received his Ph.D. from the Courtauld in 1936 and then returned to the Fogg to begin work. In 1940, Thacher was named Executive Officer of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C., a property and collection donated to Harvard that same year by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss. Thacher would spend the rest of his career at Dumbarton Oaks, where he was Executive Officer from 1940 to 1945, Acting Director from 1945-1946 and Director from 1946-1969. Although Thacher retained the title of Assistant to the Directors at the Fogg from 1940 to 1942, most of his time was spent in Washington, D.C. He officially stepped down from the position in September 1942.
Frederick Grace (1909-1942) began work as Acting Assistant to the Directors, in Thacher's stead, at some point in 1941. He served in that capacity, chiefly responsible for museum programs and the arrangement of exhibitions, until he was commissioned as Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve in April 1942. Grace received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1930, worked for several years in the National Bank of New York, and returned to Harvard for graduate studies in 1934. During this time he served as an Assistant and Tutor in the Fine Arts Department. Grace received his A.M. in 1935 and his Ph.D. in 1938, specializing in Ancient Art, and was then named Instructor in Fine Arts and Head Tutor, positions he held from 1938 to 1942. Grace died while on active duty in the Navy, on November 23, 1942.
Louisa Sprague (1903-2000) was hired at the Fogg in either 1937 or 1938 (sources conflict about the date) as a member of the secretarial staff. Her primary responsibility was as Secretary to John Thacher and then, presumably, as Secretary to Frederick Grace upon Thacher's departure to Dumbarton Oaks. Although Sprague was never named Assistant to the Directors, it seems that she took over Grace's duties when he left to enter the Navy. She worked in various capacities in the Directors' office until 1951, when she became Secretary to the Drawings Department. She also performed work for the Friends of the Fogg, the publicity department and the publications department. Sprague retired in June 1969 but returned to the Fogg in 1971 and served as Secretary of Publication Sales and as a staff member in the Picture Study. She retired from the Fogg, for the second time, around 1986.
- Series I: Records of Walter Siple, Henry Sayles Francis, and Frederick Robinson
- Series II: Records of John Thacher, Frederick Grace, and Louisa Sprague.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Box and Folder Locations
- Box 1: Folders 1-22
- Box 2: Folders 23-40
- Box 3: Folders 41-58
- Box 4: Folders 59-77
- Box 5: Folders 78-93
- Box 6: Folders 94-114
- Box 7: Folders 115-132
- Box 8: Folders 133-150
- Box 9: Folders 151-172
- Box 10: Folders 173-196
- Box 11: Folders 197-225
- Box 12: Folders 226-249
- Box 13: Folders 250-287
- Box 14: Folders 288-318
- Box 15: Folders 319-342
- Box 16: Folders 343-366
- Box 17: Folders 367-385
- Box 18: Folders 386-428
- Box 19: Folders 429-452
- Box 20: Folders 453-468
- Box 21: Folders 469-489
- Box 22: Folders 490-508
- Box 23: Folders 509-531
- Box 24: Folders 532-550
- Box 25: Folders 551-574
- Box 26: Folders 575-598
- Box 27: Folders 599-619
- Box 28: Folders 620-641
- Fogg Art Museum
- Forbes, Edward Waldo, 1873-1969
- Francis, Henry S.
- Grace, Frederick R. (Frederick Randolph), 1909-1942
- Harvard University--Art Museums
- Robinson, Frederick Bruce, 1907-
- Sachs, Paul J. (Paul Joseph), 1878-1965
- Siple, Walter Helck, 1890-
- Sprague, Louisa
- Thacher, John
- Art--Study and teaching--20th Century
- Art Museums--Administration
- Records of the Assistants to the Directors (HC 21), 1913-1999: A Guide
- Harvard Art Museums Archives
- These records were processed with the generous support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Getty Foundation
- EAD ID
Part of the Harvard Art Museums Archives Repository
The Harvard Art Museums Archives is the official repository for institutional records and historical documents in all formats relating to the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 1895 to the present. Its collections include signiﬁcant papers of individuals and groups associated with the museums' history, as well as correspondence with collectors, gallery owners, museum professionals, and notables throughout the twentieth century. Its holdings also document the formation of the museums' collections and its mission as a teaching institution.
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