Index of American Design
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The Index of American Design is a compilation of nearly 18,000 watercolor renderings that depict traditional American arts and crafts made before about 1890. The renderings were created under the auspices of the Index of American Design project, one of several Fine Arts Divisions in the Federal Art Project (FAP) of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which operated from 1935 to 1942. The renderings, now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, were intended to create a pictorial survey of the rise and development of American design. They provide an unparalleled record of the material culture of the United States and the effort to document a unique national style.

The first steps leading to the creation of the Index of American Design were taken in 1935 when Romana Javitz, head of the New York Public Library Picture Collection, and her colleague, New York artist Ruth Reeves, a textile designer and painter, developed the concept for a project to create a comprehensive visual resource of traditional American design. In August 1935, Reeves presented this idea to the national staff of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project in Washington, D.C. A pilot Index of American Design project was begun in New York City after this initial discussion. The Index was organized as a nationwide project in December 1935.

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