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Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art, Art Division records
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Contents
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Processing Information
  • Arrangement
  • Preferred Citation
  • Bibliography

  • Contributing Institution: Los Angeles County Museum of Art
    Title: Records of the Art Division of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art
    Identifier/Call Number: ART.001.001
    Physical Description: 23.2 Linear Feet (53 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1913-1939
    Abstract: This collection includes the administrative records of the Art Division of the former Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art, chiefly related to the coordination of exhibitions, loans, and acquisitions between 1913 and 1939. The records primarily comprise internal and external correspondence, and may include additional items such as monthly reports, meeting agenda or minutes, exhibition checklists and catalogs, shipping memos, entry forms for juried shows, press clippings, and photographs. Also included are the correspondence files of Dr. William S. Hekking who briefly served as museum director between 1938-1939, and correspondence related to the activities of the Western Association of Art Museum Directors.
    Language of Material: English

    Biographical / Historical

    The former Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art, the largest multidisciplinary museum to be established in the western United States, opened to the public on November 6, 1913 in the Exposition Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The museum's Art Division later formed the foundation of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which separated from the parent institution and became established in 1961. LACMA's new Hancock Park campus opened to the public in 1965, and the parent museum transitioned to become the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
    The Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art functioned as the city's primary art exhibition space for its growing population during the first decades of the 20th century. This period was marked by both nationally and internationally significant events such as the the Great Depression of 1929 and the First World War. The period was also marked by cultural events held locally and regionally, such as the 1932 Olympic Games and expositions celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal.
    The Museum's early years were overseen by director Frank S. Daggett from 1913 to 1921, and William Alanson Bryan from 1921 to 1938(?). Everett C. Maxwell was appointed the first art curator of the Museum on October 26, 1913, and served through March 1916. After Maxwell's departure, the department activities were overseen in succession by assistants Helen B. Wood, Mary E. Marsh, and Louise Upton. In 1931, fifteen years after Maxwell's departure, the Museum hired its second art curator, Harry Muir Kurtzworth. Around the same time, the word "County" was added to the museum's name.
    On July 3, 1938, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors established the Museum as a county department to operate under the control of the Museum's Board of Governors, resulting in a major reorganization. William M. Hekking, who was hired in 1938 as the chief curator of contemporary paintings and sculpture, became director of the art division following the reorganization but resigned soon thereafter in 1939. Throughout these years, the Museum's collection was bolstered by the support of collectors such as William Preston Harrison, Allan C. Balch, and Paul Rodman Mabury.

    Scope and Contents

    This collection consists of 53 boxes or 23.2 linear feet of records created and maintained by the Art Division of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art between the museum's founding in 1913 through its reorganization in 1938-1939. The records chiefly comprise internal correspondence between Museum staff, or between the Museum and various external individuals or groups, including exhibiting or lending artists, museums, collectors, dealers, scholars, educators, and reporters. The correspondence heavily pertain to the planning and logistics of loans, exhibitions, and acquisitions. Also included are documentation of the shipment of artworks, submission cards for juried shows, occasional photographs of art objects, exhibition brochures and pamphlets, press clippings, and internal reports of the Art Department. These records document the Museum's planning and execution of art exhibitions during these decades, offering an early account of its programmatic direction and activities in relation to art, as well as its work with local and international institutions, artists and artist societies, donors, dealers, and the press.
    Materials referencing major regional events are present in varying degrees, including those related to the Xth Olympiad held in Los Angeles and international expositions held in San Francisco and San Diego, or federal art initiatives such as the Public of Works of Art Project and the Works Progress Administration (WPA)'s Federal Art Project. A portion of the records pertain to serial and/or juried exhibitions organized by regional and international groups, including those of the California Art Club, the Painters and Sculptors of Southern California, and the International Print Makers Association. Overall, the exhibitions documented in this collection offer a broader view of the circulation of works by numerous well-known American artists (including George Bellows and Edward Weston), lesser-known regional artists, and by international artists, many of whose works were exhibited to a West Coast American audience for the first time.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Access requests are subject to review on a case-by-case basis, and may be closed or available with restrictions based on the fragility of items or the presence of confidential or permanently closed information. Contact the Balch Art Research Library for more information at (323)857-6118 or email library@lacma.org.

    Conditions Governing Use

    Contact the Balch Research Library at 323-856-6118 or library@lacma.org for information on publishing or reproducing materials included in these records. Permission will be granted by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as the owner of the physical materials, and does not imply permission from any external copyright holder. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain all necessary permissions from the copyright holder.

    Processing Information

    Records were processed and the finding aid was prepared from August 2016 to February 2017 by Julia Han, under the supervision of Jessica Gambling.
    The records were transferred to the Archives in 63 clam-shell file boxes. Only a portion of the contents were found to be physically sub-divided into file-level groupings. During processing in 2016, discernible groupings of papers were placed into folders and archival file boxes, largely in order as found. Most folder names were assigned by the archivist, according to discernible groupings and based on the subject matter present within the records. Metal paperclips were removed and highly brittle or fragile items were individually sleeved in mylar or acid-free paper sleeves.
    During processing, it became evident that a previous item-level inventory project had been in progress at an undetermined time period, but was left incomplete. A limited portion of the items were marked with inventory numbers at the corner of the page and tracked on separate inventory lists. These superceded lists are stored separately from the collection.


    The records are arranged in six series: 1: Exhibitions, 1916-1939 2: Serial exhibitions, 1916-1939 3. General department correspondence, 1913-1939 4. Dr. William S. Hekking correspondence, 1938-1939 5. Western Association of Art Museum Directors, 1919-1928 6. Registrarial Forms, undated.

    Preferred Citation

    [Description of item], Records of the Art Division of the Los Angeles County Museum of Science, History and Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art Balch Art Research Library, ART.001.001.


    Muchnic, Suzanne. LACMA So Far: Portrait of a Museum in the Making. San Marino, California: Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 2015.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Museums -- California -- Los Angeles -- History -- 20th century.
    Art museums -- California -- Los Angeles -- Exhibitions
    Art museum directors -- Correspondence.
    Art museum curators -- Correspondence.
    Museum administration
    Bills of lading
    Clippings (information artifacts)
    Letters (correspondence)