Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Bern Porter mail art collection
Date (inclusive): 1953-1992
Collection Number: 900270
Porter, Bern, 1911-
19.25 linear ft.
(39 boxes, 1 flat file
Getty Research Institute
Special Collections and Visual Resources
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA
Abstract: American physicist, poet, publisher, editor of artists' books, illustrator and mail artist. Collection consists of five collections
of mail art preserved by Porter from his own accumulation and those of fellow mail artists John Pyros, Carlo Pittore (née
Charles Stanley), Robert Saunders, and Jay Yager.
Language: Collection material in English
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Bern Porter mail art collection 1953-1992 (bulk 978-1992), Getty
Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 900270.
Received 1990 (accn no. 900270), 1993 (accn. no. 930011), 1997 (accn.
Ladislay Pugel, Special Collections Intern from October 1990-June
1991, processed and cataloged the first shipment. Materials from the Pittore,
Yager and Saunders collections were separated from the archive. All three
collections received an accession-level catalog record, but were not processed.
Rebecca Markman alphabetized some items from the 1993 supplement, which
comprises the bulk of the archive. From April to September 1998, Lynda Bunting
reintegrated the Pittore, Yager and Saunders collections, reprocessed the
entire collection and wrote the finding aid.
There is very little of Porter's own work within this archive. More
of his mail art collection dated from 1978 to 1984 is in the following collections.
Jean Brown papers, 1916-1995, bulk 1958-1985. Getty Research Insitute, Research Library, Accession no. 890164.
Bern Porter papers,
. 105 boxes, University of California, Los Angeles.
Bern Porter collection of contemporary letters, 1935-ca.1989
. 15 linear feet. Colby College Library, Waterville, Maine.
Bern Porter was born Bernard Harden Porter on February 14, 1911 in
Porter Settlement, Maine. Schooled in physics, Porter contributed to the
Manhattan Project until 1945 when he quit shortly after he published Henry
Murder the Murderer, an anti-war tract. Disillusioned by
the misapplication of scientific potential, Porter began to express himself
through a fusion of science and art. In 1959, he established the Institute for
Advanced Thinking to encourage freelance physicists to develop ideas that combine
physics and the humanities.
Porter is one of the founders of the mail art network, sending visual
poetry, letters, one-of-a-kind postcards and altered images to international
correspondents as early as the 1950s. He has participated in many mail art
exhibitions and also maintains an extensive literary career. To date he has written
over 80 books and published over 400.
Scope and Content of Collection
Five collections of mail art are gathered in this archive by Bern
Porter from his own collection (sometimes sent c/o his Institute for Advanced
Thinking) and those of fellow mail artists John Pyros (c/o the Epistolary Stud
Farm), Carlo Pittore (né Charles Stanley), Robert Saunders and Jay
Yager. Highlights of the collection are the original contributions sent to
Pryos, Saunders and Yager for inclusion in mail art exhibitions they curated.
Also noteworthy are letters sent to Pittore, Pyros and Saunders, which often
mention the mail art network and the work and personal life of the
Each series is arranged alphabetically by artist with folders of
notices and invitations to participate in mail art exhibitions and projects
filed chronologically at the end. Many of the corresponding artists, who hail
from countries throughout the world, are located in more than one series.
Artists represented include Reed Altemus, Vittore Baroni, Mark Bloch, Monte
Cantsin, David Cole, Peter M. Craigie, Eric Finlay, John Held, Jürgen
Olbrich, Steve Random, Lon Spiegelman, Michael VooDoo, Chuck Welch and Chris
Genres and Forms of Material
Rubber stamp art
Saunders, Robert, 1940-
Craigie, Peter M.
Held, John, 1947-
Olbrich, Jürgen O., 1955-